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Under 20s never had a chance

 

30.3.2001
By TERENCE HILTON CLARKE
 

IT has become very difficult to be surprised at things like Trinidad and Tobago failing in its World Youth Championship qualifying group.

After all, this is the fifth, straight time that this country has faltered in its bid for a spot in the global under-20 tournament – and considering that Trinidad and Tobago has only qualified for one competition in its history (Portugal ’91), it really means twelve failures in 13 attempts, overall, since the World Youth Championship was instituted in 1977.

But, that is not the only reason for the lack of alarm.

It also had to do with the widespread knowledge that the home side was simply not prepared to play on the same field with teams like Costa Rica and the USA.

Having played no games at this level since the previous world championship qualifiers in August 1998, the current Trinidad and Tobago squad was formed during 2000, but did not kick a ball in an international match until a brief Central American tour in January. Nothing happened after that until early March, when the team participated in a competition involving PFL clubs, W Connection, Joe Public and San Juan Jabloteh – losing all three games.

The United States team, on the other hand, entered the group, having participated in two international tournaments in 2000: the Enschede Tournament in the Netherlands, in which the USA placed third and the Monthey Tournament in Switzerland (second place). The United States will next participate in the prestigious Toulon Tournament in France, before making the trip to Argentina for the World Youth Championship.

It was the exact same story in 1998, when Trinidad and Tobago also hosted in of two final round qualifying groups: a well-prepared US team came here and dominated proceedings. Only Costa Rica, via a 1-1 was strong enough to match the Americans, who went on to defeat Canada 5-1 and Trinidad and Tobago 6-1.

This time around, Trinidad and Tobago succumbed 5-1 to a USA selection that included several players that helped their country to fourth-place at the 1999 World Under-17 Championship in New Zealand: including Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, who were acclaimed among the most outstanding players in that tournament. Apart from Donovan and Beasley, there are seven other players in the US under-20 pool attached to professional clubs in the MLS and Europe.

The Trinidad and Tobago team did have one player connected to a European club (Sean Cooper of Portuguese side Tirsense), plus ten with PFL teams. However, of these, only a few such as Josh Johnson (San Juan Jabloteh) have gotten significant opportunities with their clubs, so far. In any case, let’s be honest, the standard of competition in the PFL is not exactly on par with that of the German Bundesliga, where Donovan and teammate Conor Casey are based.

More importantly, apart from exposure, the Trinidad and Tobago players also lacked the technique and fitness level of their Costa Rican and American counterparts. In both games the opponents were able to march through Trinidad and Tobago’s defence at will and demonstrated superior passing. In the end, home advantage was simply not enough and Trinidad and Tobago ended the group with a solitary point, gained from the 0-0 draw with Guatemala. By this time, the only thing that mattered was the condition of Marvin Lee, who was still in critical condition in hospital, following a horrific injury incurred in the game against the USA.

So, though the Trinidad and Tobago players actually tried their best at times, it was simply not enough. The other sides were just too well prepared, too much better and too well developed. It is a story that has become very familiar. Several Trinidad and Tobago sides have endured the same ritual and, if nothing is done to change things, several more sides will also fall by the wayside.
 
 

It seems that people have grown accustomed to this tale. Hence why, outside of those very committed fans that went to the Centre of Excellence, many others appeared to be not the slightest bit interested. Perhaps very aware of what the situation is. Perhaps knowing that Trinidad and Tobago’s chances were never very good.

Perhaps no longer caring.