Trinidad & Tobago’s men’s and women’s teams made the trip to Colombia for this year’s edition of the CAC Games; hoping to at least advance past the group stage. Should you not know what the CAC Games are, it’s a multi-sport regional championship event held quadrennial (once every four years), typically in the middle (even) year between the summer Olympics (or after a World Cup, if that’s easier to remember). The Games are for countries in Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the South American countries of Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela. The CAC men’s football competition is for under-21s with all teams allowed three over-age players, while the women’s competition is for senior national teams.
The T&T men inhabited Group A alongside hosts Colombia, Honduras and Costa Rica. Head Coach, Russell Latapy, took a gamble with his squad selection as the core of the team were basically under-19s, making T&T the youngest squad in the tournament. His goal was not only to do well in this competition, but also to prepare for Trinidad & Tobago’s Poland 2019 Under-20 World Cup qualifying series. On the flip side, T&T’s opponents will use the competition as preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifiers, as the Olympic Games is an under-23 competition. Latapy’s three over-age players for the competition were W Connection defenders Tristan Hodge and Isaiah Garcia, and Stony Brook University (USA) attacker Jarred Dass.
On July 20th, the young Soca Warriors opened their campaign with a 2-0 loss to Honduras. They conceded twice in the first half before losing captain Triston Hodge to an unspecified injury in the 71st minute, and defender Jerrin Jackie to a red card (from a second yellow) in the 86th minute. Colombia edged past Costa Rica 1-0 in the other game.
Click here to watch the highlights of TTO vs HON.
The same day, T&T’s women were trashed 5-1 by defending champions, Mexico, on their CAC Games debut. They were initially placed in Group B with Mexico, Nicaragua and Haiti but, at this point, the ladies were at the bottom of a four-team group with three present as Haiti (who were already eliminated from the France 2019 Women’s World Cup qualifying series) failed to send a team to Colombia for the CAC Games. Nicaragua were, consequently, awarded a 3-0 win over the Haitians on Matchday 1.
On Matchday 2 (July 22nd), the men were up against Costa Rica. Latapy made six changes to the team that started against Honduras, as full backs Darnell Hospedales and Isaiah Garcia replaced the injured Triston Hodge and suspended Jerrin Jackie; while only Kierron Mason kept his place in midfield, as Rivaldo Coryat, John-Paul Rochford, Judah Garcia and Nickel Orr came in for Jodel Brown, Shaqkeem Joseph, Mark Ramdeen and Jarred Dass respectively. The overhaul did not solidify a better start for the Warriors, though, as the Costa Ricans stormed 3-0 up within the first 24 minutes, thanks to a brace from midfielder Randall Leal and one from forward Andrés Gómez. T&T significantly reduced the deficit through Rochford and Orr in the 60th and 67th minutes respectively, but couldn’t go a gear higher to earn a positive result. The young Soca Warriors were now eliminated.
Click here to watch the highlights of CRC vs TTO.
It was quite the opposite for the women, on the other hand. They were 2-0 up by the 47th minute, but were pegged back by Nicaragua to draw 2-2. With the Nicaraguans already awarded an opening day win, the Soca Princesses were left to wait and hope that their Central American opponents fail to score and concede four or more against Mexico in the final group game, as they both were equal on goal difference. However, if the Central American women managed a more respectable result than T&T’s 5-1 defeat to Mexico, both T&T teams would have been set to return home before the business side of the tournament began in Colombia.
Matchday 3 (July 24th) determined the fate of the TTFA’s two hopeful teams. For the men, they were already eliminated before the final group game, but there was still hope for the women. Hosts Colombia ensured that the 2018 CAC Games was a miserable tournament for the young Soca Warriors by hammering them 5-1. Already through to the semifinals, the Colombians didn’t need a result, but they didn’t take their feet off the gas as they sought to continue their good momentum. They were just too strong for T&T’s teenage troops, but the youthful squad can pick out a few positives from their trip to Colombia and learn from what has been an eye-opening experience. After all, Latapy did point out beforehand that it would be unreasonable to expect too much from his band of schoolboys, and suggested that the tournament would serve only as a warm-up for the Caribbean leg of their 2019 Under-20 World Cup campaign in November. They can only go forward from here.
Click here to watch the highlights of COL vs TTO.
There was something to celebrate on the women’s side, though, as the Soca Princesses advanced to the semifinals without even winning a game on the field. The Mexican women defeated Nicaragua 4-0, which left the Central Americans and Trinidad & Tobago even on points (as both teams were awarded 3-0 wins over Haiti) with a goal differential of -4. However, T&T scored one more goal than the Nicaraguans — in their 5-1 loss to Mexico — so the girls from the twin-island republic advanced on goals scored.
T&T’s women will now face Costa Rica in Friday’s (July 27th) semifinal, with Mexico and Venezuela contesting the second of the two games. The CAC Games women’s football third-place playoff and final will take place on July 30th.
Source Credit: Wired 868