This country’s National Under 17 footballers trained in midday heat in Montego Bay on Monday as they prepared for their final FIFA Under 17 World Cup qualifying encounter with Canada on Wednesday at Catherine’s Hall.
The match is the first game of a quarter final double header. The winner books a place at the FIFA Under 17 World Cup in Mexico and the loser goes home.
A couple of solid performances (2-2 draw with Jamaica and 1-0 win over Guatemala) by the Shawn Cooper-coached team has put T&T in a great position to qualify for another Under 17 World Cup, having done so in 2007 under Anton Corneal and appearing at the 2001 competition which was hosted by T&T.
Corneal, who is with the team in Montego Bay, assisting Cooper and his technical staff in his capacity as TTF director of youth development, was at the helm of the T&T team which defeated Canada 2-1 back in May 2007 through goals by captain Leston Paul and Stephen Knox.
That win set up a virtual final with hosts Jamaica which T&T went on to win courtesy of a Kevin Molino first half goal which sealed their place at the FIFA Under 17 World Cup in South Korea.
Almost four years later, Corneal is not as nervous about T&T’s qualifying chances as he would have been back then. Prior to the current Concacaf final round, T&T topped its Caribbean Football Union group phase ahead of Cuba, Bermuda and St Kitts/Nevis.
“It’s a similar situation but a lot is different this time. We have to make sure we don’t fall into a category of being over confident. Young players tend to see themselves already there without having completed the game at hand. We’re making sure this doesn’t happen to our players,” Corneal told TTFF Media.
“The head coach Shawn Cooper has done a great job, not just as coach of this team but also at keeping his players on the ground that is a vital element that has contributed to our results up to now.
The key for us here in Jamaica so far, as four other coaches have told us, is that defensively we have been very disciplined and organized,” Corneal continued.
Commenting on the mood in the T&T camp at the moment, he added: “We are emphasizing to the players that this is not just a situation where we are win away from a World Cup but it’s so important in that it could change the course of their lives.
It can open doors for their careers. We also have to look back at the team that did it before in 2007. Again, we are 90 minutes away from a World Cup.
“We have been fortunate to not have any major injuries in the tournament. We have to make sure we give it everything and do it with the right amount of confidence and drive,” Corneal said.
The game is 12 midday Jamaica time (1pm T&T Time) and neither team will have the opportunity to train on the match surface. Jamaica faces Honduras in the other quarter final from 3pm.
“It’s going to be very hot at match time so we’ve trained at that time for our past couple sessions and it’s going to be difficult for our opponents also. Neither team has been able to train on the surface because it has some work done to ensure it’s in the best shape possible for the match. Fortunately we are also playing the first match of the double header.”
The T&T Team, captained by Duane Muckette, will train a final time on Tuesday afternoon prior to Wednesday’s game which will be aired live www.concacaf.com.
The countries already through to the FIFA Under 17 World Cup (June 18-July 10) include Burkino Faso, Ivory Coast, Congo and Rwanda (Africa), New Zealand (Oceania), Australia, Korea DPR, Japan and Uzbekistan (Asia) plus the hosts Mexico. European and South American qualifiers will take place between March and May.
VIDEO: - View Cooper's interview before T&T 's departure for Montego Bay.