Marlon Charles, the coach of the senior women’s national football team, says its fantastic that T&T will be hosting the inaugural Caribbean Football Union Women’s Cup Final Round qualifiers to the Concacaf Championship for next year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup in Canada.
It was revealed by the CFU that T&T will play host to the eight-team final round of qualifiers from August 17 to 27 from which the top three teams will advance to the Concacaf Women’s Championship.
Contacted for comment, Charles, who has been involved with the national women’s set-up for over two decades, said, “I think its a fantastic decision by CFU for women’s football in general and a great opportunity as we try to take the game to the next level.”
Last month, Charles had hoped for T&T to be drawn in one of the first round groups to give his team some much needed match practice, however his team will now have to wait another five months before it kicks off its campaign in the qualifiers.
However, Charles does not see it as a problem and thinks it be much more of a benefit to the Soca Princesses team.
He said: “With the matches in the final round starting in August it gives our players who are injured a lot more time to recover and also gives the team a lot more time to train together as a unit.
“Our team trainer Dexter Thomas is also expected to return from England at the end of this month from his studies so he was also be happy for the extra time to work with the players on their conditioning during the month of May and then we will focus on playing some quality matches in June/July ahead of the qualifiers.
Just last month Charles and a 20-member squad had a successful four-match training camp in Charleston, South Carolina, during which they won three matches, 7–0 over Charlestown Southern University, 1-0 against College of Charleston and 3–2 over Coastal Carolina University, and drew 1–1 with the University of South Carolina.
During the four-match tour Charles was able to get a look at a few overseas-based players, but Charles stated he was putting a lot of attention on his current crop of locally-based players.
He said, “We consider this tournament to be a mini-World Cup for us and the other CFU teams because its a big step and chance to qualify for a World Cup.
And despite the recent resignation of Anton Corneal as Technical Director of the T&T Football Association, Charles said his technical team is focused on the task ahead.
Charles said: “He (Corneal) is a very passionate person about football and loves and breeds T&T football and as the Technical Director he wanted to have a close up view of how the team was progressing and we loved that about him.
“I think that’s what the girls will miss, his passion for the game and drive for success, but we know we have a tough task ahead to get to the World Cup and we will continue to put in the necessary work.”
Prior to the Soca Princesses kicking off their campaign, five first round qualify groups will take place from May 21 to June 23.
The expansion of next year’s 2015 Fifa Women’s World Cup to 24 teams has given Concacaf an extra automatic qualifying spot and as hosts, world seventh ranked Canada does not have to qualify which provides world 46th and Concacaf fifth ranked T&T a unique opportunity to qualify.
The only Caribbean team ranked top-50 in the world, T&T will be favoured to advance as one of the top three CFU teams before meeting the Concacaf contenders, inclusive of Mexico, Costa Rica, and World champions USA in the final stage of qualification.
Three teams will gain automatic qualification and the fourth placed team meets the third placed South America team.
CFU Women’s Cup Round 1 qualifiers:
Group 1 (May 21-28): Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, St Vincent & The Grenadines, US Virgin Islands
Group 2 (May 21-28): Puerto Rico, Barbados, Dominica, Martinique
Group 3 (May 21-28): Turks & Caicos, Cayman Islands, St Kitts/Nevis
Group 4 (May 28-June 4): Haiti, Cuba, Guadeloupe, Suriname
Group 5 (June 16-23): Dominican Republic, Anguilla, Jamaica, St Lucia
Final Round (T&T):
Group 1: T&T, Group 1 winner, Group 2 winner, Best runner-up Group 1, 2, 4 & 5
Group 2: Winner Group 3, Winner Group 4, Winner Group 5, Second Best runner-up Group 1,2, 4 & 5