Trinidad and Tobago’s Under 20 Men’s team will open their campaign in the CONCACAF Under 20 Men’s Championship and World Cup qualifiers against St Vincent and the Grenadines at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida at 12:45pm on Thursday.
The team, under head coach Russell Latapy had a training session at the match venue at 11am on Wednesday as all the teams converged at the IMG facility with a flurry of activity as teams completed their final bits of fun tuning before the competition commences.
Head coach Latapy said he was looking for a positive start.
“Obviously in this type of environment there can only be one thing on our minds which is to go into the tournament looking for the best possible start. Traditionally we have been able to compete in these competitions and while this year the tournament is being played in this format for the first time with all the countries coming together, we can say that we are among the teams that have gotten to the final phase on a number of occasions including the previous campaign,” Latapy told TTFA Media.
“But in saying that, there is no pressure on us because we came here without the level of preparation we would have wanted and now it’s down to how we well we can be mentally ready as well as physically to go in there and try to get results,” Latapy added.
“We had our final session before the game today missing three players who arrive later on Wednesday but generally the groups of boys will be looking to go out there, enjoy their football and compete as best as possible on the day.”
There should be no shortage of drama when Concacaf Under-20 Championship Group E action kicks off on Thursday.
Costa Rica leads a five-team group that will feature some entertaining match-ups. The Ticos are appearing in their fifth CU20 and will be seeking to punch their ticket to a 10th FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
Haiti has featured in three previous CU20 tournaments and while it has never qualified for an U20 World Cup, perhaps things could change with a victory over Costa Rica on Matchday 3 of the group.
Not to be overlooked is Bermuda, who is participating in its second CU20. The island nation also reached the 2017 edition of the CU20 where it earned a solid 1-1 draw against Trinidad and Tobago. Bermuda will be hoping to take another step forward beginning on Thursday.
Also in the mix in Group E are debutants Saint Lucia and Barbados, each with players that already have Senior National Team experience in 2019/20 Concacaf Nations League Qualifying.
The 2018 edition of the Men’s Under-20 World Cup qualifying tournament will be disputed between a record number of 34 teams. Unlike the previous format, which included regional qualifiers in the Caribbean and Central America and one final championship, this year’s redesigned competition ensures that all the participating teams have access to play more top-level football matches.
After an initial group phase, the six group winners will advance to the Qualification Stage, where they will be divided into two groups of three teams. The two group winners plus the second-place finishers of the Qualification Stage will qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019. Additionally, the two group winners will advance to the tournament’s final to determine the regional champion.
Fans will be able to follow all the action through the Confederation’s partner networks, including Univision Deportes (United States), Fox Sports Latin America (Mexico & Central America), Flow Sports (Caribbean) and other local partners. Fans in T&T can view Thursday’s match live on Flow Sports 1.
(Top photo shows Russell Latapy addressing his players during a training session last week/TTFA Media)