T&T’s squad for next month’s Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championships (February 15 – March 1) in Dominican Republic will mainly comprise of a new batch of foreign-based players and a handful of local talents, who have been training alongside national coach Richard Hood, over the past couple weeks.
At Hood’s first interaction with the media in his capacity, at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, on Friday, he said the TT Football Association (TTFA) has been working with him to host several screening sessions, in an attempt to unearth new national team prospects. While these sessions have aided the seeding process, Hood believes there is still a lot of work to do if T&T is to make any impression at the Championships.
The national coach will host another training segment with all local-based T&T hopefuls over this weekend and will place great emphasis on Tobagonian players. While TTFA has already sourced ten foreign-based athletes, Hood will not have the opportunity to meet this bunch beforehand on home soil.
These North American-based players will arrive in Santo Domingo approximately 12 days prior to the competition’s start, where they will link up with the team coach and his domestic selection for a detailed training camp. This, according to him, will in fact, pose a competitive and preparatory challenge. However, he remains optimistic, although there have some reluctance from past players to rejoin the team.
“We are trying to get some of these players (past) back into the pool to ensure that we have the best possible players going forward,” he said. “We anticipate the majority of the final selection would actually come from North America. It will be difficult. It’s good though that we’re having a ten-day camp leading into the tournament. We have ten days to work with them and get the entire team organised. That augurs well for us.”
This tourney also serves as the final regional qualifier for this year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup which will be held in Panama and Costa Rica in August. However, only two Concacaf teams will secure World Cup qualification coming out of the Championships, since the both hosts have automatically qualified.
Of the four contesting groups, T&T (Group F) will vie for a spot in the knockout round against the likes of Panama, Cayman Islands and Haiti. The top three teams from each group advance. Defending champions Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Cuba and Jamaica are all potential opponents if T&T progresses to the next stage; a big ask for the still-under-construction unit. The national squad begins its campaign against Panama on February 16.
“Panama and Haiti are both emerging forces,” Hood added. “I would suggest that Cayman Islands would be the weakest team in the group so we simply have to beat them. But the goal is to win every game, that’s the mindset we’re going in with. We are working hard and going out to do the best that we can. We know that the other nations are ahead of us. But we also know that we have the talent and the ability to get the girls to where we want them to be.”
Since screenings began in December, the national U-17 and U-20 coach has highlighted fitness as his players’ biggest concern. Hood is banking on the remaining days prior to the team’s departure and the training camp in Santo Domingo to formulate the strongest possible squad for a highly competitive tournament.
While he was still grateful that the Women’s League Football has helped some of the locally-based players get some time in on the field, Hood admitted this was not enough. Moving forward, the coach insists training programmes, fitness and improving our level of play and competitiveness are integral to rebuilding the “Women Warriors”.
He concluded, “The WoLF League does not prepare women to play internationally. It’s our, the TTFA’s, responsibility to develop our young girls. They don’t play enough football. That’s a big problem with the women’s programme. We have to set up our programme going forward where we are training continuously and every cycle, produce quality teams.”
Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship Groups
Group C: United States, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Cuba
Group D: Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico
Group E: Canada, Jamaica, Guatemala, El Salvador
Group F: Haiti, Panama, Cayman Islands, T&T