It’s been a long wait for Trinidad and Tobago, but finally they have an opportunity to cast aside some demons. T&T, who are known affectionately as the Soca Princesses, dominated their two-match intercontinental play-off against Ecuador four years ago, but somehow slipped up after conceding a decisive last-minute goal to miss qualification for their first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup™.
Fast forward to the present day and the opportunity for redemption is in sight. Next month T&T will line up among an eight-nation field at the USA-based CONCACAF Women’s Championship where three nations will earn passage to France 2019, while a fourth will book a play-off spot against Argentina.
A key cog for the Soca Princesses is the vastly experienced Kennya Cordner. A powerful and speedy forward, Cordner is ready to make an on-field statement following a brief self-imposed exile from the national team set-up.
Cordner brings goalscoring know-how and X-factor to a team short on exposure to various styles of football. Most of the squad are either based locally, or have spent the majority of their careers in USA playing college or regional football.
In that sense at least, Cordner – who once scored nine goals in an Olympic Games qualifier – is very much an outlier. The Tobagan has played in four continents and six countries in a colourful career journey that even included a brief sojourn in Paraguay.
Cordner has worn the colours of several clubs in the United States, and has enjoyed stints in Sweden and Australia, as well as Norway where she currently turns out for Sandviken. It could barely be any further from her sleepy hometown of Speyside – a village better known for bird-watching and reef diving than it is international footballers.
For one brief moment, women’s football was unexpectedly, and almost unbelievably, front and centre in the Caribbean nation. The Soca Princesses are used to little fanfare, so they were surprised as anyone when a sold-out 22,000 crowd gathered at the Hasely Crawford stadium in Port of Spain four years ago with a spot at Canada 2015 on offer.
Cordner was narrowly denied a historic match-winning goal when her spectacular overhead strike came back off the crossbar. The 29-year-old, however, is not one to dwell on what could have been as she told FIFA.com.
"It doesn’t really impact on me that much anymore," said Cordner. "It was disappointing and it hurt at the time, but that is in the past and I’m not discouraged. Every time I think about 2014, I’m not sad but I just say, ‘it wasn’t our time, because otherwise we would have been in a World Cup’. It just wasn’t meant to be."
And it will be far from easy this time around with USA, Canada and Mexico strong favourites for the upcoming continental championship, while Costa Rica and Jamaica have made massive progress in recent years.
T&T qualified for the continental championship behind Caribbean zone winners Jamaica, but Cordner was buoyed but what she experienced upon her return to the side.
"The energy and positivity of the girls was amazing and that is how it is supposed to be,” said Cordner, who is just one of three Tobagans in the squad. "Hopefully we have enough preparation so we have our chemistry, because it is going to be a tough challenge mentally and physically."
Cordner, who says she wants to play until the age of 40, is desperate to once again see women’s football uniting the Caribbean nation just as it did in 2014.
“That experience was amazing,” said the player known as Yaya. “I have never played in front of so many people in my entire life. We filled the stadium and we brought people together and that was the most amazing thing ever. Hopefully we have the opportunity to do that again."