By RON FANFAIR
If Trinidad & Tobago thought that qualifying for this year’s International Soccer Federation (FIFA) Under-20 championship in Egypt was challenging, they are going to find out that advancing from the first round is going to be extremely difficult.
The twin-island republic, which is making just its second appearance in the tournament, was drawn in Group “A” with host country Egypt, Italy and Paraguay, which is making its eighth appearance in the tournament. In fact, the Caribbean side will meet the Egyptians in the opening match on September 24 in Alexandria.
Former club player and 2002 Canadian Professional Soccer League Coach of the Year, Aldwyn McGill, who was in T & T last month for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Associations of Football (CONCACAF) regional youth championship to determine the qualifiers, acknowledges that last weekend’s draw does not favour the T & T side.
“From what I saw, they are very athletic and speedy, but they are still lacking technically,” he said. “They managed to make it to Egypt based on speed which you can’t defend and the home field advantage which they utilized. In the World Cup and against the teams they are up against in the first round, they will find out that those sides value ball possession and are more technically superior.
“However, you can never count out speed and the one thing about the T & T side I noticed is that they pounce on opportunities. It’s a very interesting team and I am eager to see how they will perform on the big stage. They have a few more months to prepare for the challenge.”
Unlike McGill, FIFA vice-president, Austin “Jack” Warner, seems optimistic after last Sunday’s draw.
“I am extremely pleased with the draw,” said Warner, who is also the president of CONCACAF. “We have six evenly matched groups and I am sure we will see lots of exciting matches. Naturally, it’s a happy coincidence that my home country, Trinidad & Tobago, will contest the opening match against host nation Egypt.”
T & T coach, Zoran Vranes, admitted that his team has landed in a very tough group.
“We are, however, looking forward to meeting Egypt, Paraguay and Italy,” he added.
Nigeria, one of Africa’s four representatives, will join Venezuela, Tahiti and Spain in Group “B” while the Group “C” participants are the United States, Germany, Cameroon and the Republic of South Korea. Group “D” comprises two-time runner-up and African champions Ghana, Uzbekistan, England and Uruguay while Group “E” is made up of Brazil, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic and Australia.
The Group “F” teams are the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Honduras and Hungary.
T & T has appeared in the tournament once before, in Portugal, in 1991 where the team was knocked out in the first round without scoring a goal.
Argentina, which captured the last championship in Canada in 2007, failed to qualify for the global tournament which is to be played from September 24 to October 16.