Trinidad and Tobago's under-20 footballers are once again in a must-win situation, and need to comfortably beat winless Curacao today to move forward from their Caribbean qualifying series.
On Wednesday, T&T suffered a setback in their bid to reach the CONCACAF final round when losing 2-0 to Haiti in a Group A Caribbean Championship final round match at the Waterhouse Mini-Stadium, in Kingston, Jamaica. Another match saw Puerto Rico defeat Curacao 2-1 to move level with T&T on three points and stay alive in the race for one of two automatic qualifying spots. T&T opened the series with a 2-0 win over Puerto Rico.
Today's final round of preliminary qualifying matches will see T&T meeting Curacao from four p.m. (T&T time), and the Puerto Ricans facing already qualified Haiti (six points) two hours later.
At the semifinal stage of Caribbean qualifying, T&T needed a victory over St Vincent and the Grenadines, and won 3-0.
A win over Curacao today will qualify the Young Warriors as one of five Caribbean teams for next year's CONCACAF tournament, in Puebla, Mexico. The CONCACAF tournament will determine the four regional qualifiers for the 2013 FIFA Under-20 Men's World Cup. T&T head coach Ross Russell expressed confidence in beating Curacao, despite the loss to Haiti.
"That's football sometimes. It didn't go according to plan for us. Haiti had more fight in them and they deserved the win," Russell told TTFF Media Officer Shaun Fuentes.
"Our midfield needs to adjust because they didn't show up today. There are some things to talk through and tidy up. We need to improve our finishing. Our guys need to be a bit more calm but also have that killer instinct in front of goal. I think they still have a lot of the College League syndrome in them.
"We need more urgency in our play and a longer period with these players to drill certain things into them. Once we go through to the next phase which I think we will do, we need to continue our preparations and address a lot of things as soon as we get back home."
On Wednesday, T&T found the going tough against Haiti, and paid the price for a lacklustre showing, particularly in the opening half. Haiti took a 31st minute lead through Luckner Horat, who rifled a right-footer past an outstretched Quesi Weston in goal.
Coached by Cuban Manuel Rodriguez, Haiti controlled much of the first half play, enjoying better possession. But it was actually T&T who created the early chances. Defender Alvin Jones missed a near post header in the fourth minute, and hardworking midfielder Xavier Rajpaul shot over bar moments later from inside the six-yard box. Forward Shackiel Henry directed a shot wide of the far post in the 22nd minute.
Haiti found their stride midway through the first half, and were unfortunate not to go further ahead. T&T goalie Weston saved a low shot from France-based professional, James Jean Francois. And on the half hour, Francois, who is attached to French club Le Mans FC, headed the ball off the upright.
The Young Warriors hoped to improve in the second half, but that was not to be. Haiti doubled their advantage just two minutes into the second period of play when Samuel Pompe stepped up to convert a penalty, after T&T defender Anthony Charles committed a foul. Despite a couple of changes by coach Russell, T&T made no telling impact on the Haitian defence.