National Under-20 women’s coach Jamaal Shabazz has blamed lack of fitness for his team’s heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Haiti on Thursday evening in their opening match of the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championships at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
TT went ahead 2-0 in the first 12 minutes but Haiti came storming back courtesy a classy hat-trick from their striker Nerilia Mondesir.
The forward erased the deficit on the stroke of half-time with her second goal, and fired in the winner in the 54th minute to silence the partisan crowd.
Shabazz had expected nothing less than a fierce battle against fellow Caribbean opponents but said his team’s mentality changed after they attained a two-goal lead.
Speaking to the media during the post-match press conference, Shabazz opened by stating, “I think we had a dream start going two goals up, but we lost to a more skilful, fitter and more aggressive Haitian team tonight. The girls gave a great effort but this is the reality, it was always going to be a tough match, it was never a walk in the park game and was also going to be a savage contest, but we have to keep our heads up and come back fighting against Canada.” The coach reminded his team to keep playing at the level they need to until the final whistle because football is a game of 90 minutes.
“The main lesson here for us is to remember the score in the game is not the result of the game. Never take the result in the game for granted as the final score may not be the same at the end,” he said.
Shabazz lamented the absence of key players who missed the opening fixture due to injuries. He said some players had superb individual performances, while others were exposed on numerous occasions.
Haiti’s captain and Player-of-the-Match, Mondesir, found spaces left by the Trinbagonian defence and continuously terrorised the back line.
Haitian coach, Marc Collat, lauded his striker after the match stating, “She is an exceptional and intelligent player, she thinks quickly on and off the ball and can kick with both feet... she is an indispensable player to the team.”
The national squad will still be aiming for a top three finish in the eight-team tournament as they seek qualification into for the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in France later this year.
TT will face Canada at 6:30 pm this evening and Costa Rica on Monday with admission costing TT $40 for entry.