T&T has the necessary ingredients to succeed within the Concacaf level and compete with the rest of the world but there must be more sustainability in its programmes and preparations for competitions.
That’s the opinion of former head coach of the Canada senior team, T&T-born Stephen Hart.
The ex-T&T player, who as head coach, led Canada to the semi-finals of the 2007 Concacaf Gold Cup and held similar positions with their youth teams, witnessed T&T’s performances during the ongoing Concacaf Under 17 World Cup qualifiers in Panama.
He felt T&T were unfortunate to have clashed with the host nation in their final qualifying game.
“I thought the team found its rhythm after the first game and they knew the key players and it was important in winning the second game and getting to the quarter finals,” the 53-year-old Hart told TTFF Media at the Intercontinental Playa Bonita Resort on the weekend.
“The quarter final game was always going to be very difficult game against the hosts who had everything going for them. They were accustomed to the turf and they were together for a long time. T&T weathered the storm very well and scored the first game. The big question was how Panama would respond and they responded very well. But at no point did I think T&T were going to be out of the game because the rhythm of the game was moving towards your favour.
The players got more comfortable in the atmosphere. But unfortunately the second goal came and the favour swung in Panama’s favour,” Hart added. Hart said he has continued to follow the exploits of T&T’s national teams and believes there is much to anticipate from the current bunch of youth players. “To be fair you have some very special players on the squad.
“I am really impressed with the right back Shannon Gomes and Akeem Garcia. There is a lot of quality but you need an investment on the field from the players, a complete commitment and then of course from the stakeholders and the Federation. It’s the only thing that will give you a chance of having the edge when you come to tournaments like these in terms of getting you to the next level as the World Cups and so on,” Hart said.
The Panama Under 17 team had been together for 19 months prior to the current tournament and played ten warm-up matches against international opponents and clubs. The Federation itself is said to have invested in excess of US$1 million into the team’s qualifying campaign which resulted in their qualification for the 2013 FIFA Under 17 World Cup.
T&T played four international warm-ups ahead of the tournament including two against United States and one each against Costa Rica which they lost 3-0 and one against Venezuela. TTFF technical director Anton Corneal, fully aware of the need for continuous preparations, expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Sports for stepping in at a time when the Federation was able to fund the team’s preparations.
“We have to very grateful to the Ministry of Sport for stepping in and allow the team the opportunity to have some kind of preparations for this tournament. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get us to a World Cup but it got us to this point and it also showed us that with more of it we can give ourselves a realistic chance of competing and getting to a World Cup,” Corneal said.
“It was rather unfortunate that on the night (Saturday), some of our players did not step up to the occasion and this is not something that comes easily. It comes over a period of time, which is where adequate preparation is important. Panama had more desire and the game went in their favours. But it is also not something where you can blame our team for having less desire because they were up against the hosts who were also a very good playing team having been together for such a long time.
“Hopefully we can take our current bunch and keep them together heading into the next Under 20 World Cup campaign because there is definitely a lot of good ingredients in here that we can work with for the future,” Corneal concluded.
The T&T team will return to Port of Spain tomorrow.