Trinidad and Tobago’s National Under 20 footballers will begin their quest for qualification at the 2009 FIFA Under 20 World Cup with an opening fixture against Canada from 6pm at the Marvin Lee Stadium in Group A action in the CONCACAF Under 20 World Qualifying tournament.
Looking ahead to the action, there remains a question mark over German-based striker Jamal Gay following his hamstring strain in training on Wednesday and Jamal Clarence has been called in as a back up. Team manager Chris De Silva said that Gay has a 50-50 chance of taking part in the tournament.
Head coach Zoran Vranes is not fazed by a possible Gay absence though.
“We have a team that is ready and has the desire to do well enough to qualify,”Vranes told TTFF Media.
“Our main objective now is to start well. Of course we have a tough group but we have prepared for the toughest and we now need to show that when we play our matches. We need to show that we are capable of winning and execute in the way that will see us achieve the results to take us forward,” Vranes added.
US-College based midfielder Sean De Silva, one of the twelve survivors from the Under 17 team which qualified for the last FIFA Under 17 World Championship 2007 in Korea, says the players are not intimidated by any of the opposing teams.
“Coach told us to be ready for five matches which means that we are looking already towards the final. We are confident but also grounded because we know the responsibility ahead of us. Canada will not be easy opponents but we need to take care of them first and then think about Mexico and Costa Rica.
“I expect all the matches to be hard but we will play them as they come. We have had the experience of playing these other top CONCACAF teams so there’s no reason for us to feel intimidated.
“We hope too that the fans can come out and give us the extra support because we are at home and need to take advantage of that. We are playing for the country and the support is always a boost to us as players,” De Silva added.
Russell Latapy, who trained with the youngsters this week, urged them to give their all for the Red,White and Black.
“I’ve always been someone who has been able to go on and achieve things in the game because I decided I was never going to be a quitter and that is the same advice I would want to give you boys as you go into the competition. Don’t expect anything to come easy but if you work hard at it then there’s always going to be some form of success coming your way,” Latapy said.
Canada are also hopeful of a winning start on Saturday. A two-time CONCACAF under-20 champion (1986, 1996), they qualified automatically as one of three members of the North Zone. It has qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup eight times, third-most in CONCACAF, including when it hosted the 2007 world championship.
Other contenders Costa Rica won won Group 1 of UNCAF (Union Centroamericana de Fútbol) qualifying over Honduras and Nicaragua to earn one of two guaranteed Central American berths in the CONCACAF championship. Costa Rica is making its 16th appearance in the CONCACAF finals, and has qualified six times for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the most by any Central American nation.
Mexico meantime won 10 CONCACAF U-20 titles between 1962 and 1992, and has qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup 10 times, (second most in CONCACAF). Mexico finished runner-up at the 1997 U-20 World Cup in Tunisia was the first CONCACAF nation to host the FIFA event in 1983.