TRINIDAD and Tobago senior women’s football team coach Kenwyne Jones believes his squad possesses the courage and intensity needed to secure a coveted place at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The Women Warriors enter their final round of World Cup qualifying at the 2022 Concacaf W Championships (CWC), which kicks off in Monterrey, Mexico on July 4.
Locally-based team staff and players leave for Mexico on Thursday morning and await the arrival of their foreign-based teammates later on in the day.
TT open their campaign against 2020 Tokyo Olympic gold medallists Canada on July 5. Joining them in Group B are Costa Rica and Panama. Group A consists of reigning FIFA Women’s World Cup and CWC champions USA, Mexico, Jamaica and Haiti.
The CWC group stage runs until July 11. At the end of round-robin play, the top two teams from each group will move on to the semi-finals and in doing so, qualify directly for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Meanwhile, the third-placed teams in each group will qualify for a 2023 World Cup intercontinental playoff.
Canada are ranked sixth on the FIFA women’s rankings, Costa Rica 37th, Panama 57th and TT, a distant 76th, the lowest-ranked team at the CWC.
However, Jones remains confident his team has the depth to make it to the CWC semi-finals and book TT’s first-ever spot at a Women’s World Cup.
“My goal is for them to qualify. I told the team from day one that I do believe in them one hundred per cent and I believe they will qualify. It’s just about going through the stages, ticking the boxes and working really hard to get there.
“We have the talent to do so. The composition of the squad is wonderful at this point and we’re going to go out and give it our best shot.
“We’re just looking forward to it. I think everyone is at the edge of their seat right now, just wanting to lead, to get through the process, and we’re at that point now. I can say that you will see the best of the ladies because this is sometimes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.
Jones confirmed the team would undergo an eight-day pre-tournament training camp in Mexico. Twenty-five players have made the trip but two will be dropped ahead of the CWC.
At the camp, TT will play three practice matches, two against a Mexican club and an in-house game. These three games will mirror TT’s CWC round-robin match schedule to help players acclimatise to gameplay, training and recovery.
Skipper Karyn Forbes, who picked up a small injury in the CWC qualifying round in April, has fully recovered and is raring to go.
For the camp, Jones said, “We’re going out there to acclimatise and work on everything else tactically, get familiar with the surroundings and prepare for the tournament.
“It would give us an opportunity to see different combinations and work tactically on things we would like to put forward for the team during the tournament.”
He also expressed confidence in his wealth of youthful and experienced players on the team.
“Being able to help the ladies on this team, the ones who’ve been here before at this stage of qualification, to realise a dream. We have quite a number of new, young players in the squad that should be on the platform for the next ten years.
“Having them be able to experience something like this at this stage to experience something like this so it will fuel their desire and thirst to continue to represent TT at this stage.
“I think we’ve done some excellent work so far in being able to integrate new and younger players. You have to be able to blend the squad properly,” he added.
The former national striker believes if TT qualify for the 2023 World Cup, it would inspire more foreign-based players with TT lineage to come forward and expand the squad’s player pool.
Jones said the CWC is necessary and integral for how we look at, view and change our level of respect for women’s football.
“I think it’s the best time for us to be able to get to that other level as we know we were close in the past. Hopefully, we get to our end goal and it will then set the chain reaction for what is necessary for grassroots.
“For the future, hopefully, us qualifying, the games that we’ve had up to this point, will help others out there who can represent TT to want get involved and hopefully the programme will continue in that regard,” he closed.
The CWC semi-finals on July 14 at Estadio Universitario, and the final and third-place match on July 18 at Estadio BBVA, will be played in a single-elimination format, with the champion qualifying for both the 2024 Paris Olympics and the inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup (CWGC), to be held in 2024.
The runner-up and third-place teams will also square off in a Concacaf Olympic play-in series, scheduled for September 2023. The winner of that play-in series will also qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics and the 2024 CWGC.
TT Team for Concacaf W Championships Pre-Tournament Camp
Goalkeepers - Kimika Forbes, Makida Herbert, Klil Keshwar, Tenesha Palmer
Defenders - Rhea Belgrave, Chelsi Jadoo, Shaunalee Govia, Shady Stoute, Victoria Swift, Lauryn Hutchinson
Midfielders - Liana Hinds, Amaya Elis, Asha James, Chelcy Ralph, Karyn Forbes (captain), Kedie Johnson, Sarah De Gannes, Tori Paul
Forwards - Raenah Campbell, Cayla Mc Farlane, Maya Matouk, Maria-Frances Serrant, Edna Konte, Jolie St Louis, Brianna Austin
Staff - Kenwyne Jones (coach), Carlos Edwards (assistant coach), James Baird (goalkeeper coach), Joanne Daniel (manager), Anyl Gopeesingh (doctor), Rejan Chin (rehab specialist), Terry Johnson-Jeremiah (equipment manager), Atiba Downes (strength and conditioning coach), Andre Sooklal (media officer), Alexandria Olton (sport psychologist), Dean Tuitt (trainer), Kylla Charles (massage therapist)