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Mon, May

Eve: Under-prepared Trinidad and Tobago U-20 men must be allowed to dream.
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Trinidad and Tobago men’s Under-20 football coach Angus Eve believes the absence of local and regional competitive football for the past two years has put the national team at a clear disadvantage heading into Concacaf’s U-20 Championship in July.

T&T has been drawn into Group F alongside Mexico, Haiti and Suriname. Eve, who is also head coach of the national senior team, anticipates an uphill task owing to players’ lack of match practice since the pandemic hit in March 2020.

“The draw is a difficult one, but any draw would be difficult because of the state of football in Trinidad. It’s well documented the kids haven’t played football for about two years. We just started back with them about two months ago after extensive screening,” said Eve.

Although under-prepared, the head coach believes the teams should make the most of this opportunity.

“We’re under-prepared. I keep saying that. I’m never nervous going into any game but we’re under-prepared and we have to be realistic that we are. In this case, we need them to go (to compete), for their mental health.

“So they have something to look forward to. But we still have to send the kids and give them an opportunity to play because if you keep taking away their dreams, we build a society with no dreams and ambition,” he said.

Currently, there are 14 locally-based U-20 footballers in active training, selected from over 400 screened players. They train alongside ten national senior players, to help fast-track their development.

In April, T&T scouts will travel to the US to seek out new talent ahead of the tournament. Eve said there are players with T&T roots training and playing with academies in USA, Spain, Germany and England who they “continue to monitor.”

The U-20 coach hopes to bring these US and European-based players to T&T, in May, to take part in development camps.

Eve, the most capped player for T&T, said there were two domestic U-20 tournaments scheduled to start this month but they have been postponed – further hindering preparation.

However, he is pleased with the efforts of the 14 players thus far.

“The 14 that we have, you can see that tactical awareness, the physicality in them, the way they’re playing. You have to remember when we go to this tournament most of the players are playing in their senior leagues.

“If not, some of them are already outside (playing abroad) already. This is the challenge we have here for not having organised football for the last two years.”

Eve said several Concacaf U20 teams have already started hosting camps to prepare for the competition.

After the group stage, the top three teams from each advance to the knock-out round (16) and join the four teams that qualified directly from last November’s Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championship qualifying: Curacao, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Nicaragua.

This tournament will combine qualifying for both the 2023 FIFA Under-20 Men’s World Cup and 2024 Paris Summer Olympics into a single event.

The four semi-finalists of the U20 Championships will qualify for the World Cup in Indonesia, while the tournament’s two finalists will qualify for the 2024 Games.

Eve said 2020 finalists Mexico remain group favourites while Suriname have gone on a massive recruitment drive for players based in Holland. Haiti, he said, is “traditionally, very difficult.”

2022 CONCACAF MEN’S U20 CHAMPIONSHIP GROUPS

Group E: USA, Cuba, Canada, Saint Kitts and Nevis

Group F: Mexico, Haiti, T&T, Suriname

Group G: Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Aruba

Group H: Honduras, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda

WATCH Press Briefing with Angus Eve on 2022 CONCACAF U-20 Qualifiers