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Chris Birchall's international fairytale came true today when he was named in the Trinidad and Tobago starting XI for their World Cup qualifier against Panama. The Port Vale winger will start in central midfield tonight after impressing Trinidad and Tobago's Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker and team captain Dwight Yorke during two recent friendlies.


The 21-year-old from Stafford qualifies to play for Trinidad and Tobago through his mother, Jenny, who was born in the Caribbean.

She said he was delighted to get his chance. "He is thrilled, but he's not nervous. He just wants to do the best he can."

"He's now at the team hotel with all the other players and cannot wait for the game to start."

Birchall made three of the goals in Trinidad and Tobago's 4-0 win against Bermuda. He was also man of the match in their previous game against Lima.

Tonight's match kicks-off at 11.30pm UK time at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.

The Panamanians lost 6-0 to Trinidad and Tobago during the 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign, but have impressed recently with a 2-1 win away to Jamaica and 1-1 draws at home to the United States and Mexico.