The National Women’s Under-17 football team will be hoping to make a winning start to their qualifying quest for the 2018 FIFA Under 17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay when they take on US Virgin Islands in their opening Caribbean qualifier at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva from 7.30 pm today.
The game will be the second match of a double-header with Grenada meeting Curacao from 5pm. After three days of matches, only the top team will advance to the Caribbean Finals in Haiti.
TT team coach Jamaal Shabazz noted, “We have prepared well with a few solid sessions and I think the players are all eager and ready for their first qualifying match. They have the experience of playing in a CONCACAF Championship in the past at the Under-15 level but this now is a different environment with a different cause.
“This is actually World Cup qualifying so they are aware of the importance and the meaning of these matches,” Shabazz added.
The ex-national men’s and women’s team coach continued, “Looking at our opponents, we see that former national player Izler Browne is the coach of US Virgin Islands and I expect they will come here with some kind of preparation and will be no pushovers and we have seen progress in women’s football made both in Grenada and Curacao.
“Neither of these teams will be run arounds and they will come here intent on causing an upset on the host team. But at the same time we believe in our ability and I expect our players will take each game on its merit and will put out the effort that is required to get us past this first hurdle,” Shabazz added.
The team comprises a few United States-born players including midfielder Sarah De Gannes who is based in Alberta; Kara Trotman of Seattle Reign – niece of the late national striker Mickey Trotman, and Annika Daniel of FC Bellevue.
Some of the home-based players include 12-year-old midfielder Kayla Baboolal of Biche FC in Biche, Aaliyah Prince of Success Laventille, defender Moines Mejias of Trinity Nationals and goalkeeper Chelsea Ramnauth of Fyzabad Secondary.
Apart from Haiti, which received a bye as hosts of the final round, the remaining 18 countries entered the first round, and were drawn into three groups of four teams and two groups of three teams.
The winners of each group advance to the final round to join Haiti, where they are divided into two groups of three teams, with the top three teams qualifying for the final tournament as the CFU representatives.
Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, St Lucia, Guyana, and St Vincent and the Grenadines were automatically seeded in Groups A–E respectively as hosts of each first round group, while the remaining 14 teams were seeded based on the results of the previous two editions of the qualifying competition. Three teams from the Caribbean advance to the CONCACAF Final round next year towards the 2018 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup.
Tickets cost $20 (adults) and $10 (children) and will be available at the venue on each matchday.