NATIONAL Men’s Under-17 team head coach Shawn Cooper believes this country has received a favourable draw for the final round of CONCACAF qualification for the 2015 FIFA Under-17 Men’s World Cup.
Cooper and team manager Christopher Gouveia attended the draw in San Pedro Sula in Honduras on Monday, which saw T&T placed in Group A alongside Caribbean rivals Jamaica and Cuba, United States and hosts Honduras, as well as a third Central American nation. Group B contains Canada, Haiti, Panama, Mexico, St Lucia and Costa Rica.
T&T will kick off the tournament on February 27 against the yet to be determined Central American country. They then face USA on March 2, Honduras on March 5, Jamaica on March 8 and Cuba on March 11.
“I think this is the best possible draw you can ask for as a coach. We were placed in a group with two other Caribbean teams which makes the draw a favourable one, as we’ve done reasonably well against them in recent times,” Cooper told TTFA media.
Cooper said the opportunity was used in San Pedro Sula to discuss training matches against some of the other competing teams.
“We have some time to chart our course going into the tournament. We will have a better idea of what funding is available to us and we have already held discussions with some teams about playing practice matches before the tournament.
“Playing only against professional teams at home will not be sufficient for us as we need to have the players exposed to playing international teams, especially away from home, so as to get a better feel of what it takes to take on these challenges,” Cooper added.
The new CONCACAF Under-17 Men’s tournament format has increased the number of set games to five for each competing nation, up from two in previous editions of the championship. The new format has been created to favour development and competition.
The tournament will crown the Confederation champion at this age level, and qualify four teams to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Chile 2015. The top team from each group, after round-robin play, will advance to the World Cup and the other two will be determined by the results of the final-day elimination matches.
The Olympic and Francisco Morazan stadiums will each play host to group phase matches, with the opening match to be played at the Morazan Stadium on February 27.
The Olympic Stadium will host Group B and the final phase including the fifth and third-place matches, as well as the grand final, scheduled for March 15.