Trinidad and Tobago will not be playing at the FIFA Men's Under-20 World Cup in Turkey next year.
This comes after the young Soca Warriors suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Curacao in their final Caribbean Championship final round qualifier on Friday at the Waterhouse Mini Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.
Needing a win to guarantee themselves a place into the CONCACAF final round in Mexico next year, Trinidad and Tobago's uninspiring performance saw them miss out on the possibility of finishing as the Caribbean's fifth qualifier – by virtue of finishing as the best overall third-placed team. T&T ended fourth in Group A on head-to-head results against Curacao. Both teams finished on three points and an identical
(-1) goal difference.
Friday's second qualifier in Kingston saw Puerto Rico finish Group A runners-up after holding group winners Haiti to a 1-1 draw. Puerto Rico finished with four points after edging Curacao 2-1 on Wednesday. Haiti and Puerto Rico and both Jamaica and Cuba from Group B have now qualified for next February's CONACAF Under-20 Championship in Puebla Mexico. The overall best third-placed team between the two groups will also qualifiy for the CONCACAF round.
Following Friday's defeat coach Russell said T&T national teams can no longer afford the luxury of assembling mere weeks before a tournament and expect to easily get by Caribbean opponents. He recalled that even in his time as a player both at the youth and senior level, T&T would be able to pull off resounding victories without much preparation.
"This is no longer the situation. We thought that even with all the struggles that we faced, that we could come together three weeks before this tournament and get through. But when I heard what the other teams had (done) in their preparation, I knew we would be in some problems," Russell told TTFF Media.
"The Haitian team has been together for three years since at the Under 17 level. Their players are housed at the Federation's Goal Project Centre and receive schooling and football training there on a daily basis. They return to their local clubs only on weekends to play and then return to the national team camp base. That is partly funded by Government as well as other stakeholders. The Antiguan Under-20 team has been in training for the past eight months while Puerto Rico has also been together for several weeks.
Russell called for cooperation among the leagues, the clubs and the Federation to rebuild T&T football. He also hoped the players on the T&T team would not be discarded.
"I will take the blame for some of the lapses because maybe I was not strong enough in trying to ensure that we got some of the things done going into a tournament like this," Russell said. "We did okay in the first game but we threw away a lot of chances and it hurt us in the end. And we did not step up when we needed to against Haiti and Curacao".