Tue, Jun


TWO confident teams, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname, are both predicting opening victories from their Caribbean Under-20 Championship matches tonight at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. The problem is that they are playing each other!.

Suriname head coach Werner Blackson boasts of having beaten the Suriname men’s national team with his Under-20 footballers in a warm-up match, while “Young Warriors” coach Derek King is buoyed by a recent commanding showing against Guadeloupe’s senior national team who they held to a 1-1 draw in Tobago a week ago.

Trinidad and Tobago host the Caribbean final round for the 2015 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, beginning at 5 (p.m.) today when Curacao face Cuba in Group A, followed by a 7.15 (p.m.) showdown between the Surinamese and the hosts. Meanwhile, Group B begins tomorrow at Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, where from 4 p.m., the Dominican Republic face St Kitts-Nevis and from 6.15, Aruba tackle Haiti. Admission is $40 and children 12 and under enter free.

Described as one of the best Under-20 men’s teams to come out of Trinidad and Tobago, the current bunch of young Soca Warriors are battling to be among the four Caribbean qualifiers for the CONCACAF final round, which subsequently takes three team from North, Central America and the Caribbean to the Under-20 World Cup, to be played in New Zealand.

Most of the T&T team played at the 2013 CONCACAF U20 championships where they beat Costa Rica 2-0, but fell 4-2 at the quarter-final stage to tournament runners-up and hosts Panama. In the squad are potent Arima winger Akeem Garcia, outstanding Texas-born Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Johan Welch, North Carolina midfielder Andre Fortune and captain Shannon Gomez.

“Our team have a bunch of players you can call gems. Every players is playing (selected) off talent,” captain Gomez said. “You can expect to see Trinidad and Tobago putting on a show for any team which will challenge us.”

T&T coach King said his side is ready and confident. Most of the “Young Warriors” are drawn from the national Under-17 team which came within a game of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup two years ago. They have been training together for two months, and got good results against local Pro League clubs, and the draw against Guadeloupe last Saturday.

“The game against Guadeloupe, it came at the right time. The guys did well..... to see that an under-20 team match up against a senior team,” King declared. “The guys are eager to go, and come tomorrow we will get three points.”

Meanwhile Suriname, lost 2-1 to Haiti in qualifying, but beat St Lucia 6-3 and strugglers Turks & Caicos Islands 7-0 to qualify as the best second-placed team. Since then, they have trained together for six weeks, and beaten their national team. Coach Blackson feels recent improvements must put them among the contenders.

“With respect to the opponents of Suriname, I think tomorrow we will get our first three points,” Blackson said.

Meanwhile, Curacao have boosted their team by including seven players from Holland, but head coach Henry Calderon was level-headed and expects a tough tournament. He reminded everyone that two years ago, Curacao upset Trinidad and Tobago in qualifying.

“Maybe we are going to be the surprise of the group,” Calderon said.

Cuban coach Raymond Hernandez brings a disciplined team which is ready to play good football.

“Cuba always come to participate and give their best,” he said.