Caribbean dreams of Olympic gold

The second round of Caribbean qualifying for the 2008 CONCACAF Under-23 Championship gets rolling on Tuesday 9 October with group hosts Haiti and Trinidad & Tobago looking like good bets to stamp their tickets and inch one step closer to Beijing 2008.

Two groups of three teams each will battle it out in a round robin format with only twp spots available for the CONCACAF final qualifying tournament with a date yet to be determined.

Trinidad & Tobago, coached by former goalkeeper and tactical wizard Michael McComie, arrive after having finished in top spot in a first-round group that also included Guyana, the Netherlands Antilles and Surinam. They will be joined in Group G by Cuba and their ace striker Roberto Linares and Grenada at Macoya's Marvin Lee Stadium.

The Trinidadians have been keeping fit since topping their group in the first round with a series of training camps and expectations are high in the team. "We have been spending a lot of time making sure that we get the strongest players in the side for the upcoming tournament," the coach, who also bosses club side Joe Public, said recently.

Group H will pit hosts Haiti, who have been undergoing a recent revival at all ages levels and finished in front of St. Kitts and Nevis and the Dominican Republic in the last round, against the Bahamas and the young Reggae Boyz of Jamaica with the matches taking place at the Stade Silvio Cator in Port-au-Prince. The cash-strapped Haitians will be counting on home-field advantage and the goal threat of up-and-comer Reginald Veltentim to keep the momentum going.

The winners of each 'triangular' group will advance to the CONCACAF U-23 Championship along with three Central American sides (either Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica or Nicaragua). The five sides from the Caribbean and Central America will meet regional heavyweights Canada, Mexico and USA with dates and venues yet to be determined for the eight-team CONCACAF U-23 Championship, where the top two teams will qualify as North, Central American and Caribbean representatives to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.