This country’s Under-20 men’s football team will face Jamaica’s U-20s in three warm-up matches in T&T starting on Thursday as both countries ramp up their preparations for their upcoming CONCACAF U-20 Men’s World Cup qualifying group qualifiers.
The Jamaicans will begin a residential camp here this week while T&T head coach and former T&T international Brian Haynes is currently overseeing preparations with a 30-man squad.
Haynes is expected to have a quota of overseas-based players join his group later this month before finalising his squad for Group D of the Concacaf qualifiers alongside Canada, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, Port-of-Spain while Jamaica will contest Group F with Bermuda, Grenada and Martinique in St Kitts and Nevis.
T&T and Jamaica will meet in three matches on Thursday, Sunday and February 1 with the venues and start times to be finalised today.
“It’s going to be games against a team from the Caribbean first of all with the kind of play that we’re accustomed to,” Haynes told TTFA Media on Saturday following a training match against Caledonia AIA Unders-20s which his team won 3-1 at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium Training Field, Marabella.
“But at the same time, it’s quality games and we are going to have to come with our best effort to show these guys that we can play, not only play but to win because as far as I’m concerned that’s what is going to bring the crowds to the stadium.
“We are going to work hard and try to win games. I expect these matches to be well contested so that it serves its purpose in this phase of our preparations.”
On the current preparations, Haynes continued, “I’m at a point where I can start to see what the team is going to look like. Everybody is not here as yet but all the players who are here at the moment in T&T are doing what they are supposed to do.
“I’ve seen improvements in the defending, into the midfield and when we go forward and as far as I’m concerned all those are things that we still need to sharpen up.
“We haven’t been good on finishing. One goal in a game of 90 minutes is good so far but we need to improve in getting more goals.”
After round-robin play in the Concacaf qualifying opening round between February 23 and March 2, the first-place team from each group will advance to the 2024 Concacaf Men’s U-20 Championship, joining the six pre-seeded top-ranked nations.
San Juan North Secondary and Caledonia AIA winger Lindell Sween, a member of the locally-based training squad said he was very excited about the qualifiers.
The Santa Cruz-born Sween added, “I’m really excited and preparation is going very well, but I think the guys need to come together a little bit more to perform well in the upcoming tournament.”
Being a part of the Caledonia set-up in the T&T Premier Football League Tier I competition, Sween said he sees himself as a leader among the U-20 players in training.
Reflecting on his stint as part of the national U-17 team and playing against Canada at the CONCACAF level, Sween who scored a gem of a free-kick against the North Americans in a 3-2 loss last year (February) said it helped him to understand that T&T can perform against teams like Canada, and USA.
During the current U-20 sessions, the 17-year-old Sween said he has improved on the defensive aspect of his game which will be an asset to the team.
“I’m learning to do more work on the defensive end because it can lead to us having counter-attacks,” said Sween, who credited his parents for being his major influential figures, noted that he also harbours ambitions to break into the senior national team in the near future, lining up alongside some of the players who he look up too like Keron Cummings, Levi Garcia, Nathaniel James, and Real Gill.
SOURCE: T&T Guardian