Thu, Jun


T&T under 20 line-up before match vs Bradford Park Avenue - Photo: John Rhodes.

U-20s look to take it further

There is no doubt the Trinidad and Tobago national men's under 20 team will want to surpass other T&T teams that have participated in a FIFA World Cup final when they take the field at the FIFA U-20 World Youth Championship in Egypt September 24 - October 16, 2009. But they will also aim to give their country a Republic Day present at the same time.

No other Trinidad and Tobago national team at any level has ever made it out of the first round of a FIFA World Cup tournament. Also, of all the T&T teams that participated at a World Cup final only two teams has actually scored three goals in the said tournament.

It was the 2001 under 17 team who got a Nkosi Blackman goal against Croatia in a 2-1 defeat and a Jerol Forbes item against Brazil in a 6-1 demolition. Also, the 2007 under 17 team managed to score a single goal in South Korea, a Stephan Campbell free kick in a loosing battle with Ghana. The current T&T under 20 team is aiming to rewrite T&T's history books once more as they seek to take it further than any other.

T&T will open against host Egypt at the 2009 World Youth Championship at the Egyptian Army (Borg El Arab) Stadium in Alexandria, the same day their country celebrates its 33rd Republic Day Anniversary.

This will be the second time a T&T team has played an Egyptian team in World Cup battle. In 1991 Egypt prevailed 6-0 winners over Bertille St Clair's men. Defenders Shawn Boney, Kirk Trotman, Dean Pacheco and the late Richard Theodore could not contain the deadly Egypt side and were exposed in the worst way.

Goalkeeper Michael McComie paid the price, by conceding three goals in each half from six different players. T&T was not short of talent though and had a seemingly potent attacking line-up in captain Dwight Yorke, Anthony Sherwood, Glen Benjamin, Jerren Nixon and Angus Eve, but none could reduce the deficit as Egypt was to hot to handle.

This time around, the current under 20 team is expected to do much better and will try hard not to fall into the same hole their predecessors did. They are better prepared as a team, and function as a tightly knitted-unit with a burning desire to achieve a monumental feat for their country, especially on Republic Day.

Red, White & Black

Trinidad and Tobago by the way- became a Republic on August 1st, 1976. The event is celebrated as a public holiday on September 24th because this is the date when the first Parliament met under the new Republican Constitution.

The date was removed from the official calendar of holidays from 1999 to 2001 to make way for the Spiritual Baptist (Shouter) Liberation Day which is celebrated on March 30th. The Republic Day holiday was reinstated in 2002.

Final Farewell

Before the members of the current Trinidad and Tobago national Under-20 team bid a final farewell to their families back home they were presented with laptops and a cheque for $150,000 at a send-off function and dinner hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) at the Crowne Plaza, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain.

And TTFF special adviser Jack Warner announced that while grateful for the help from Government, he and his organization had invested $11 million in the development of the current squad to have them prepared properly for the upcoming global event and the transition to the national senior team for the World Cups in 2014 and 2018.

Within a seed there is a potential for a forest.

As previously mentioned the current T&T U-20 side is one of T&T's best prepared teams and, have been together since the under 15 level. They possess talent, quickness, determination and are said to be one of T&T's best group of players to have come along in a while in terms of togetherness.

It all started of for the Junior Warriors in 2005 under the watchful eyes of Mr. Ken Elie. The team field stars such as Robert Primus, Sheldon Bateau, Leston Paul, Sean De Silva, Jean-Luc Rochford, Daniel Joseph, Daneil Cyrus, Stephen Knox and the forgotten duo of Chad De Freitas and Franz Husbands.

The team first real tournament came in the 2005 U-15 Caribbean Youth Cup where T&T started off with an impressive display whipping Netherlands Antilles (4-0), St Kitts/Nevis (6-0), Anguilla (19-0) and Suriname (2-1) before bowing out to Guatemala (2-1) and then had to battle Caribbean rivals Jamaica in a third-place playoff match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium only to have given up rival supremacy to the 'Reggae Youths' (3-0) at the final whistle.

Coach Ken Elie then had the chance to take his team up another level when they competed in North America at the 2006 Dallas Cup, but were quickly brought back down to earth and never made it to the next stage as they exited the tournament with a goalless draw and two defeats scoring no goals in the process.

Always there at the right time

In 2006 head coach Ken Elie was removed and immediately after "golden-spoon" coach Anton Corneal appeared, he was quickly snapped up to take over as head coach of the under 16 team. Anton played his cards right and picked up where Ken had left off as the team continued to make strides in the CFU tournaments.

At the 2006 Caribbean Youth Cup they were again dominant beating the likes of Aruba (8-1), Grenada (5-0), Guyana (3-0), tied Barbados (1-1), whipped Suriname (4-0) but lost to Haiti (1-0) and finally took revenge on rivals Jamaica (2-0) to redeem themselves but the result got them a bronze for their troubles as invited team Mexico took home the first prize with Haiti taking silver.

The team were growing in confidence and they were starting to gel better as a unit, but still they were not ready for top competition. In 2007 They managed to play a series of friendly games and had poor results. Losing twice to both Honduras (3-0, 2-1) and Mexico (2-0, 2-0) respectively, a further 2-0 defeat to Honduran club Motagua and a 3-0 victory over local club Harvard FC after going down 2-0 in the first match with the same team was all they could account for.

Beating them at the Office

Captained by Ryan O’Neal, T&T was on their way to the 2007 Youth World Cup Qualifiers which was hosted by Jamaica. The games were played at the National Stadium (The Office) in Kingsotn. A tournament which stakes were high and a place at the 2007 FIFA Under 17 World Championship in South Korea was up for grabs.

This time T&T did not have the pleasure of facing the usual weak Caribbean opponents as they did previously and were actually grouped with Costa Rica, USA, Canada and host Jamaica. And, as predicted, they opened the tournament with a 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica and got a further 3-0 thrashing from USA.

Despite being down, the Young Warriors dug deep within themselves and pulled off a miracle when they got past Canada (2-1) then beat Jamaica (1-0) which was enough to have claimed one of the available spots to South Korea.

T&T left the tournament with their heads held high and midfielder Kelvin Molino was T&T‘s hero, his only item over Jamaica in a must win game was enough to propel T&T, the youngsters had pull it off and Jamaica was left shell shocked.

Like their senior counterparts who qualified for their first ever FIFA World Cup finals in Germany (2006) the under 17 quickly followed. History was again made and the team became the first under 17 team to have qualified for a World Cup final at this level without being the host.

They were the second T&T U-17 team to have participate at a FIFA World Championship in T&T's history. The first came in 2001 when T&T played host.

Unfortunately for the Young Soca Warriors their South Korea experience was one they surely would not want to remember. They were sent home early after some humiliating defeats coming from the hands of Ghana (4-1), Colombia (5-0) and Germany (5-0). Coach Anton Corneal was left scratching his head and his motivator Alvin Corneal was lost for words. His weekly column in the T&T Guardian suddenly disappeared.

These results did not go down well even for the players and T&T's only foreign import, US born midfielder Aaron Maund quickly jump off the Warriors wagon and onto the US under 20 team. Cut players Stephan Chang, Ryan O’Neal and Chad De Freitas must have been silently laughing.. (wink wink)..

Jack Warner steps up.

But, it did not end there for the young T&T side and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) heads, more so, Special Advisor Jack Warner decided that he will not give up on the youths and quickly entered them into the 2008 national Super League tournament.

Anton Corneal, (here is that name again) was promoted to senior team assistant head coach and Serbian's Zoran Vranes took over the now under 20 team. Vranes, who is no stranger to T&T didn't take long to settle and had instant success with the youths as he guided his new team to double titles in the Super League competition.

Despite the other National Super League teams fielding adult players in the tournament the young T&T team didn't disappoint their employers and rewarded them with two trophies as they clinched both the National Super League Knockout competition and the 2008 National Super League title respectively.

With the World Cup experience and the convenience of being together at a minimum of four year under their belts the boys in Red, White and Black did it again in 2009. This time at the under 20 level becoming the second team in T&T's history to have qualified for a FIFA World Youth Cup since Dwight Yorke guided his troops to the 1991 FIFA World Youth Cup in Portugal.

This time around though, the qualifiers were in a simpler format compared to 1991.  There were two groups with four teams in each group competing with each other and the top two qualifying directly for the inaugural FIFA U-20 World Cup.

T&T hosted group B while neighbors Jamaica hosted A. T&T were group with Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica while Jamaica entertained USA, Honduras and El Salvador.

T&T started off the qualifying series on the right foot or should I say Sean De Silva's right foot as his free-kick was the match decider. De Silva's curling free kick got around the Canadian wall and curled away from their keeper before entering the net to send T&T 1-0 up.

The Canadians under the watchfully eyes of our very own T&T born Stephan Hart fought hard for an equalizing goal but came up fruitless as T&T held on to a slim 1-0 victory.

Up next, T&T had to face a sterner test in Costa Rica. But Canada were the ones that made the journey a bit easier for T&T when they shocked Mexico 2-0 and gave T&T some breathing space in the process as the group had opened up in T&T's favour.

It was the El Tricolor" second defeat and they were officially eliminated. T&T eventually held their own against giants Costa Rica and were happy with the 0-0 draw in the end, while Canada was eagerly awaiting Costa Rica in the final game still hoping for a chance.

Costa Rica took care of the Canadians (2-1) and T&T had qualified for Egypt without even kicking a ball. T&T had to face the eliminated Mexicans in the final match and had to come from a two goal deficit to rally to a 2-2 tie. But in anycase the match really didn't have much significance as T&T had already booked their place in Egypt.

Congratulations! T&T has clinched a spot at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup and now Zoran Vranes became an instant hero. Varnes then made some changes to his technical staff and decided to bring in his successor Anton corneal (there is that name again) back into the fold as his assistant.

Sticky situation

What can one really expect from our future Soca Warriors. Will they fly, float or sink in Egypt. Since 2008 under current head coach Zoran Vranes the team has had a high percentage of losses, They've played 33 games in all competition including friendly games against club teams as well. They've had 8 victories, 7 draws and 18 defeats, scoring 38 goals but conceding 62 in the process.

On the positive side

They have played many good teams in preparations for the upcoming tournament including Brazil, Paraguay, Nigeria, South Korea, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Honduras and United Arab Emirates. Soon they will square of with USA and Australia in further friendly match-ups before touching down in Egypt.

Most of the current members have played at a World Cup in the past and should not be too overwhelmed by the spotlight event.

The team has also been strengthened by the inclusion of Khaleem Hyland, Jamal Gay and English born midfielder Jake Thomson as they go out to defy all odds against some of the top teams in the world.

Down that road before

At the under 17 World Cup finals in South Korea in 2007. T&T were grouped with a team from Africa (Ghana), Europe (Germany) and South America (Colombia) the same pattern follows the current under 20 team.

vs Egypt

They will open against Egypt who, will be going all out to beat T&T simply because they are host and have the support behind them. Secondly, it will be their first game of the tournament and thirdly, T&T seems the easier of their other two opponents.

The North Africans have made five appearances in the competition, starting with Australia in 1981 when Taher Abuzied finished as one of the top scorers of the tournament with four goals in just three matches. However, their most impressive result was achieved 20 years later when they won the bronze medal in Argentina in 2001. There star players are Talaat Mohamed, goalkeeper Abugabal and Essam El Hadary.

Egypt Squad

1.Aly Lotfi (Enppi), 16.Mohamed Bassam (Al Gaish), 21.Mohamed Abougabal (Enppi); 2.Salah Soliman (Ghazl Al Mehalla), 5.Moaz El Henawy (Al Ahly), 6.Ahmed Hegazy (Ismaily), 7.Aly Mohamed (Enppi), 12.Islam Ramadan (Haras El Hedood), 13.Ayman Ashraf (Al Ahly), 15.Saadeldin Saad (Al Ahly); 3.Hesham Mohamed (Al Ahly), 4.Mostafa Galal (Enppi), 8.Shehab Ahmed (Al Ahly), 10.Ahmed Shoukri (Al Ahly), 14.Hosam Hassan (Enppi), 17.Mahmoud Toba (Al Ahly), 18.Ahmed Magdy (Ghazl Al Mehalla), 20.Hussam Arafat (Zamalek); 9.Mohamed Talaat (Al Ahly), 11.Afroto (Al Ahly), 19.Bogy (Zamalek).

vs Italy

T&T then face Italy next at the Cairo International Stadium. And, if I am not mistaken this will be the first time a T&T team will get a chance to play an Italian team. The Young Warriors will really have to have their guards up as the Italians are a very attacking team. They keep possession very well and are composed in defense. If given the opportunity they will defend a one goal lead successfully.

Italy's star players are Stefano Okaka Chuka. Born in Italy to Nigerian parents, the Roma man is a powerful, athletic winger who covers a lot of ground during games.

Sent on loan to Brescia in January, he scored his first Serie A goal at the age of 16, having netted 31 times for Roma's youth team. Another key member of the team is Silvano Raggio Garibaldi, who performs vital defensive duties but can also lend a helping hand further up the pitch. Lets not forget Manchester United starlet Federico Macheda who has been running out with United's first team occasionally even at the tender age of 18.

Italy Squad

1.Vincenzo Fiorillo (Sampdoria), 12.Andrea Gasparri (Giulianova), 21.Antonio Piccolo (Juventus); 2.Alessandro Crescenzi (Grosseto), 4.Matteo Gentili (Varese), 5.Michelangelo Albertazzi (AC Milan), 6.Marco Calderoni (Piacenza), 13.Francesco Bini (Piacenza), 14.Nicolo Brighenti (Pergocrema), 15.Vasco Regini (Sampdoria); 7.Claudio Della Penna (AS Rome), 8.Andrea Mazzarani (Crotone), 10.Fabio Sciacca (Catania), 16.Giacomo Bonaventura (Atalanta), 17.Mattia Mustacchio (Ancona), 18.Silvano Raggio (Genoa), 19.Marco Romizi (Reggiana); 9.Umberto Eusepi (Reggiana), 11.Gianvito Misuraca (Vicenza), 20.Piergiuseppe Maritato (Fiorentina).

vs Paraguay

Finally, T&T will do battle with Paraguay at the Cairo International Stadium. By then though T&T should have already known their status on what route they will have to take and how they will approach this match as it could be their last or their ticket into the next round. Both teams have met once before during a friendly tournament in Venezuela in July 2009. A team that defeated T&T by four clear goals.

T&T must becareful not to make the same mistakes they did during that past encounter with the South Americans despite what Paraguay's head coach Adrian Coria may have said in his recent interview when he told FIFA that he will not underestimate T&T and that they are a very good team.

I'm not taking anything away for the young T&T side, but if you asked me, it's all mind games and T&T must not fall into the mental traps. T&T must stay focused because the game against Paraguay will be T&T's turning point in this tournament.

Their star players are midfielder Hernan Perez, striker Robin Ariel Ramirez, goalkeeper Joel Silva, defender Ronald Huth and Federico Santander.

Paraguay Squad

1.Joel Silva (Guarani), 12.Gerardo Ortiz (Quilmes/ARG), 21.Ruben Escobar (Libertad); 2.Ivan Piris (Cerro Porteno), 3.Ronald Huth (Vicenza/ITA), 4.Cesar Benitez (Cerro Porteno), 5.Francisco Silva (Libertad), 14.Rolando Garcia (2 de Mayo); 6.Rodrigo Burgos (Cerro Porteno), 7.Celso Ortiz (Cerro Porteno), 8.Hernan Perez (Villarreal/ESP), 10.Gustavo Cristaldo (Libertad), 13.Aldo Paniagua (General Caballero), 15.Derlis Orue (12 de Octubre), 16.Jorge Moreira (2 de Mayo), 17.Nicolas Martinez (Puebla/MEX), 18.Lorenzo Melgarejo (12 de Octubre); 9.Robin Ramirez (Libertad), 11.Federico Santander (Guarani), 19.Luis Paez (Tacuary), 20.Luis Caballero (Olimpia Asuncion).

Trinidad and Tobago must overcome these obstacles and there's no doubt the Young Warriors can pull of a few surprises, afterall, they are a World Cup team and has rightfully claimed their place at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt. Good luck T&T.

T&T 22-Man Squad

Num - Name - Current - School.

Goalkeepers - X 3
1.Glenroy Samuel (United Petrotrin/TRI) (San Juan Sen Sec).
20.Andre Marchan (Joe Pubic/TRI) (Carapachaima Sen Sec).
21.Jesse Fullerton (Nova University/USA) (Queens Royal College).

Defenders - X 8
2.Aubrey David (W Connection/TRI) (Vessigny Sen Sec).
3.Curtis Gonzales (Ma Pau SC/TRI) (San Juan Sen Sec).
4.Sheldon Bateau (San Juan Jabloteh/TRI) (Fatima College).
5.Akeem Adams (United Petrotrin/TRI) (Presentation College, San Fernando).
12.Robert Primus (San Juan Jabloteh/TRI) (Malick Sen Sec).
15.Uriah Bentick (Liberty University/USA) (St Anthonys College).
19.Daneil Cyrus (Joe Public/TRI) (El Dorado Sen Sec).
17.Mekeil Williams (Ma Pau SC/TRI) (St Anthony’s College).

Midfielders - X 7
6.Leston Paul (capt) (University of South Flordia/USA) (St Mary’s College).
7.Kevin Molino (Ma Pau SC/TRI) (Mucarapo Sen Sec).
8.Sean De Silva (College of Charleston/USA) (St Mary’s College).
14.Jean-Luc Rochford (Joe Public/TRI) (Fatima College).
16.Marcus Joseph (Joe Public/TRI) (Vessigny Sen Sec).
11.Khaleem Hyland (Zulte Waregem/BEL) (Mucurapo Senior Comp).
18.Jake Thomson (Southampton/ENG).

Forwards - X 4
13.Juma Jamal Clarence (United Petrotrin/TRI) (Presentation College, San Fernando).
10.Quan Grosvenor (University of Connecticut/USA) (St Anthony’s College).
9.Jamal Gay (Rot Weiss Oberhausen/GER) (El Dorado Sen Sec).
Marvin Manswell (Joe Public/TRI) (Presentation College, Chaguanas).

Standbys - X 3
Nicholas Walker - F - (St Ann's Rangers) (St Mary’s College).
Jevon Morris - D - (St Ann's Rangers) (Fatima College).
Trent Lougheed - F - (United Petrotrin) (Carapachaima Sen Sec).