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Vanessa Arauz is a petite 25-year old, who could easily be one of the 11 players who will be taking the field against Maylee Attin-Johnson and the Trinidad and Tobago women’s football team in tomorrow’s second leg World Cup qualifier at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

She is instead however, the counterpart of T&T coach Randy Waldrum.

Arauz, formerly in charge of Ecuador’s female Under-17 team, is the first woman to coach Ecuador’s senior national side. She is a pioneer already. But having only taken charge of the side in April, she and her charges will be aiming to make more history for their country with victory tomorrow.

A win or a 1-1 draw or higher would take the Ecuadorians to their first-ever Women’s World Cup; a feat their men have achieved three times.

The possibilities for the women’s game in her country does not escape the coach.

“It’s really important for the development of soccer because if we win the game, the children who want to play really have an excuse, because if one (Ecuador) team qualifies, I think if I prepare correct, I can one day go to a national team to represent,” she said, her halting English conveying the message in the lobby of the Marriott Courtyard hotel.

She adds for emphasis, “I think (it will) change a lot of views of people to say okay, the women can play soccer, it’s not only for boys.”

The Ecuador women are not accustomed playing in front of packed stadiums, but the significance of what this two-leg playoff against their Caribbean opponents can mean, has fired up public interest.

“In this year, it was the first time to have 20,000 people to watch the game Trinidad/Ecuador,” she says of the first leg 0-0 draw. “It is the first time in history. It was really a surprise for us.”

However, there is now heightened media interest back home and Arauz and her team left South America with many public offerings of support.

“It’s really important for all the team to know that we have that support,” the coach stresses.

Arauz’s players felt that added pressure in Quito. But in Port of Spain, she feels her side will be able to play more freely, despite the high stakes.

“I think for us it’s better because in Ecuador, the people say you have to win, you have to win. Here, the team is more relaxed...I don’t know if in Trinidad people go to the stadium and see the women’s team but I think it’s more pressure (for T&T).

The match will be between two teams of different styles. Waldrum’s is the stronger, more physical side, with potency added by “two players who are really quick,” according top coach Arauz. She was referring to Ahkeela Mollon and Kennya “Ya Ya” Cordner. 

“We play with more creativity and short passes; that is I think the difference.”

The Ecuadoreans trained at the “very hot” Larry Gomes stadium yesterday morning. But despite coming from the their much cooler base in Quito, Arauz says, “the team feels happy and we will do good in the match.”

And despite all that she and her opposite number Waldrum may do by way of tactics on the bench, Ecuador’s coach feels her squad, the core of which have been in the setup since 2000, will succeed because of their desire.

“We fight a lot of time to reach this moment,” she says.

“They have to put their heart on the field and fight to the final and do everything.”

Final preparations
By Ian Prescott (Express).

Trinidad and Tobago’s senior women’s football team head-coach Randy Waldrum is spending the time approaching tomorrow’s critical World Cup inter-continential playoff against Ecuador by making plans to take T&T to its first-ever qualification for a Women’s World Cup.

Trinidad and Tobago face the South Americans at 6 p.m. at Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain, following a 0-0 draw in Quito on November 7. The aggregate winner over two legs will earn the final spot in the 24-team 2015 Women’s World Cup to be played in Canada.

“From a coaches’ perspective, the staff will have a few details to finalise, such as what the starting eleven is going to be,” Waldrum said. “We’re not going to change a lot between today and Tuesday before the game,” Waldrum said. “We have to keep them tapered down a bit so that we can be fresh for Tuesday.

“Waldrum has already dropped his training sessions to one per day leading up to the big match and also gave the team last Friday off to be with family. He felt it important to keep them in the right frame of mind. 

Speaking to the Trinidad Express after Saturday’s night training, Waldrum said: “We gave them yesterday off just to handle tickets and family. I don’t want it to be a burden. It can be a burden playing at home, and I don’t want that to be,” the experienced American coach said.

“We gave them yesterday off, said take care of your tickets, your family, get everything done. So, these next couple of days we can really focus on the game.” 

Waldrum said that apart from football, a great part of preparing for the second leg was overcoming team fatigue. He brought in conditioning specialist Gregory Seales, who worked with American John De Witt to improve players conditioning for seven days after the return from Ecuador.

“We been going since CONCACAF. We didn’t have any breaks. We had Dallas (camp) before CONCACAF (Women’s Championships) and after that we had to go right to Mexico to prepare, then to Ecuador to prepare.”

Following the condition phase, Waldrum returned to the training field and believes the T&T women have done what was required to prepare for the game.