TTFF TD Lincoln Phillips gives his impressions on the showing by this country’s National Under 20 team at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt. He compares the tactically readiness and the overall fitness of the team from 2007 to 2009. He also talks about the steps necessary to ensure continuity for steady progress.
Phillips also looks reflects on the South Africa 2010 campaign and gives his feelings on how the Senior Team should go onwards to 2014 and beyond.
Lincoln you saw the current crop of Under 20 players participate at Korea 2007 and then Egypt 2009. What are your impressions on the showing of the Zoran Vranes-coached unit in Egypt.
I felt, taken everything into consideration, the team had a successful run. In order to give an accurate analysis of the team’s performance, one must first analyze the level of preparation. This team was the best prepared youth team in recent memory and though the only came away with one point. There are two common schools of thought that are currently being bounced around about by the U-20 team in Egypt.
In my view, both assessments are off the mark. One group overstates the performance of the team; urging the notion that this group is part of a golden generation while the other provides mostly negative analysis that focuses too much on the result of the three games yet this analysis fails to acknowledge the positive steps this group has made from the time they were competing on the U15 level.
How do you assess the team's overall showing, in terms of being up there tactically and mentally with the other teams?
Again, compared to previous youth teams, the defense tactics and overall fitness level of the team improved dramatically from our last showing in the U17 World Cup in Korea. I can’t overstate the need to understand that our youth teams must be assessed on the trend of their development almost as much as their game results. Between the U-17 Korea tournament to this recent U-20 tournament, the team has shown tremendous improvement in their defensive game.
However, the improved level of fitness and defensive awareness this team has accomplished must now be complemented by significant improvement in the areas of maintaining possession and attack as well as transitional play.
How do you expect we will ride on this experience for the future? What shall be the necessary steps taken by the TTFF to ensure continued momentum and growth?
Compared to previous youth national squads, this group of players arrived to the competition in Egypt as a team in every sense imaginable. From their entry into the Super League, to the tours in South America, Europe and Africa, the players and coaches were provided an opportunity to perform in a structured, competitive, and challenging environment.
It is through this level of preparation as well as the tactical decisions by the technical staff have brought about a good collection of athletic and tactically aware players that we have not seen in a long time on the youth national scene. However, to say that this group is a golden generation is misleading notion that should be not be taken seriously because if these players fail to develop every aspect of their technical abilities and overall football IQ, they will not be able to win beyond the Caribbean region.
In addition, the players must take it upon themselves to lift their game and understand that complacency has corroded the most talented of young players. They must ignore the accolades especially if they have not won anything or claimed any measurable accomplishment as a young footballer beyond making a team.
It is this individual commitment that is more significant to the player’s development than anything a national program can offer at this point of their career. Mind you these young men are now in the stage of their career where they must be well on their way in participating and contributing in a professional club environment that will challenge them on a daily basis if they are to be considered assets to future national team campaigns.
Furthermore, our technical staff must be provided the tools necessary to take their game day preparation to a level consistent with the top programs in the world.
There is no reason why our national programs should not invest in match analysis computer software. It is an important tool that can be utilized to properly prepare our teams and make necessary adjustments throughout the match.
Finally, I was a bit disappointed a goalkeeping coach was not present on the technical staff in Egypt, especially on the youth level. This should not become the recommended course of action for future competitions.
What are your feelings on the 2010 World Cup campaign. Despite our failure to qualify. Is it as bad as people made it to be? What are the positives to take forward?
Contrary to the assessment reserved for our youth programs, assessment of our senior program is largely if not exclusively based on results. The bottom line is that we qualified for 2006 and did not qualify for 2010 and the effort cannot be seen as anything but an absolute failure.
However, we must look at the factors that contributed to this campaign in a manner that seeks not to point fingers but to avoid a repeat of the same decisions that doomed our efforts to qualify for South Africa. According to the genius of Johan Cruyff, “Problems are obviously there to be solved”.
We must be committed to and in constant search for solutions to solving the problems; so I am not interested in addressing whether the situation was “as bad as people made it to be” because that touches upon the more base and salacious part of our culture that does not seek to solve problems but rather stew in and exploit its aftermath for personal and professional gain.
Our 2006 qualification should have been a launching pad for future growth and success. However, it proved to be a demonstration of how the success of a team is frequently dependent upon factors that can easily impact player performances.
The fallout from the impasse so soon after our return from Germany was a major contributing factor in the failed efforts of the senior team. The 2007 Gold Cup should have been an opportunity to incorporate some of the up and coming players with players who performed in Germany.
Whatever chance we had to pass the baton was severely hampered by this episode and as a result much of the 2007 and 2008 efforts were met with a patchwork of players wearing our national shirt.
Furthermore, the approach that enabled the team to qualify for Germany was one that embraced a collaborative effort between technical and administrative elements. The process which led Leo Beenhakker to coach the senior team was a great example of how deliberation and taking into consideration the input of players and a technical staff is far superior to relying on the decision of administrators with little to no technical accomplishments.
We must return to the process that brought us success and the first order of business is to somehow heal the schism that has developed between the “shirts and shorts”. It is there, it is real, and it must be addressed in good faith by both sides.
Has Russell Latapy attained something that we can work with in the future? The draw with Mexico, the performance in the 1-0 loss to USA? He came in during a very crucial and tough period and didn't pull out exactly what was required but has he brought something to the team that we can now work with?
The players, for the most part, accepted Russell as the leader and played with more intensity. What he brought to the team was the incorporation of positive passing rather that negative and square passing. Our counterattacking also improved.
Russell should be given the opportunity to carry on his duties as coach. However, like any other coach, he must be ultimately judged by his record and ability to manage players. I would like to see Russell also take advantage of any opportunity to increase his time in the coaching trenches.
There is no substitute for game time experience on the touchline. It is a completely new phase that Russell has stepping into and getting as much experiences as well as surrounding himself with supporting coaches who have achieved on the professional and international levels will serve him well for this preparatory period leading up to the qualification rounds of Brazil 2014.
While some results did not help his cause; the away leg in Honduras and Costa Rica for instance, there were other matches such as those of the home legs against U.S. El Salvador, Costa Rica and Mexico where the team played reasonably well and showed some encouraging flashes.
I also strongly advise Russell be given the opportunity to coach the U-23 team so he can not only be exposed to additional touchline experiences, but also groom a group of players who can very well make up a significant portion of our 2014 efforts. Such players could also benefit from what I believe is Russell’s strength as a coach; developing the technical and creative elements of their games.
Coupled with the high pressure style of play of the current U-20 team, a coach such as Russell can provide that necessary phase of development for those potentially emerging senior players. In the end, qualifying for the Pan American games, Olympics, and Gold Cup must all be goals that Russell should strive to achieve before anyone entertains giving him the reins of the team for the 2014 qualification rounds.
What about the coaching projects etc for local coaches? Can elaborate a bit on what’s been happening in that area.
I will continue to offer coaching courses on various levels. Much of the courses are designed to develop the community based trainers who are often the first line of coaching our young players will experience. We will also continue to offer coaching courses to current professional players.
These courses were offered this past year to Defense Force and Police players. It is my hope that we will get players from the other PFL, Super League, and WoLF teams to take advantage of this opportunity to obtain certification that would serve as grounding for modern coaching methods.
Another initiative that continues to move in the right direction is our collaboration with the Ministry of Education that has led to regulations that require all SSFL coaches to possess at least a TTFF “D” level coaching license or equivalent.
We will also continue to work with the SPORTT Company to increase the number of certified coaches who participate in their summer camp programs. Courses for goalkeeping coaches are also on line and ready to be offered. So far this year, we have certified over 160 coaches and project to certify over 200 coaches by the end of 2009.