T&T’s Soca Princesses will hope to rebound from the disappointment of squandering a 2-0 advantage in a 3-2 loss to Haiti on Thursday, when they come up against favourites Canada in the feature match of a Group A double-header in the 2018 Under-20 Women’s Championship at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva from 6.30pm.
Two hours earlier, Haiti will face Costa Rica, beaten 3-1 by Costa Rica also on the opening match programme.
Going into this evening’s encounter, T&T will be heavy underdogs against a 2015 Concacaf runner-up Canada, joint favourites with USA to claim the confederation title and book two of the three places to France later this year.
Reflecting on Thursday’s defeat after a more than stellar start to the contest, T&T Under-20 women’s coach Jamaal Shabazz was an understandably disappointed coach on Thursday night as his team surrendered a two-goal lead after what he described as “dream star”.
“I think we had a dream start going two goals up but we lost to a more skilful, fitter, more aggressive Haiti team tonight,” Shabazz said in the post-match press conference.
“I think the girls gave an effort and certainly the Haitian team was a lot more aggressive, much stronger and all in all this is reality. I think when they equalised they totally took over the game.
In the second-half we fought a little bit more but it was always going be a tough game against this Haitian team, it was never a walk in the park, it was always an established contest and all in all we’ve got to keep our heads up and come back fighting against Canada,” he said.
On Haiti, hat-trick scorer Nerilia Mondesir and whether T&T failed to deal with her as required on the evening, Shabazz replied, “Well I think the individual received the ball from somewhere, you know, I don’t think any team at this point try to play man to man on any one player. She did well and she is one of the top players in the tournament. Our strikers didn’t do badly as well eh, we saw Laurelle Theodore coming on and being a handful but all in all I thought they came up against a very good striker and it was a learning curve for all the defenders.”
Asked about the confidence level of the his team he said, “I thought we lost a little bit of confidence in terms of coming out very quickly and in terms of dropping deep when the ball was not under pressure in the midfield and by staying high when the ball was not under pressure in the midfield we allowed that space behind our backs and we paid dearly for it. It is something we have got to adjust to in the game to come.”
Asked how his team would correct its mistakes from the first game before facing Canada, Shabazz responded, “We cant make magic in one day, the one day we have is to recover and recuperate for the game against Canada. Certainly, having tasted the level of aggression and urgency in the game I think it will fire our girls to come out even harder against Canada. I think our players are hungry for it, they were very surprised by the speed and aggression of this Haitian team. I mean this was a very skilful, aggressive bunch and we cant take anything away from them and they outplayed us tonight and we cannot take anything away from them. I think our players are honest with themselves and they know we’ve got to come back against Canada and try our best."
Tomorrow in Pool B, Nicaragua faces Mexico from 5pm followed by Jamaica and USA before they close out round-robin play on Tuesday with USA battling Mexico at 4pm, and Nicaragua against Jamaica from 6.30pm.
At the end of the round-robin series, the top two teams will advance to the semifinals ahead of the final and third place playoffs.
Both semifinal winners will qualify to the World Cup while the third place winner from the semifinal losers will complete Concacaf’s representatives to the 2018 Fifa Under-20 Women’s World Cup in France.