Tournament football is as much about momentum as skill, strength or luck. Trinidad and Tobago’s U-17s, getting set to participate in their first women’s world finals, are finding their rhythm at just the right time. With two days to go before the Soca Princesses open their FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup account at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, the hosts are on the crest of a successful wave.
“We’ve had some great results recently,” said Even Pellerud, Trinidad and Tobago’s head coach and the country’s new head of women’s football. A pair of wins over South American qualifiers Venezuela and a 3-0 drubbing of the highly-rated Republic of Ireland, who finished runners-up in European qualifying behind Spain, have set hopes racing in the football-mad dual-island Caribbean nation not known for a commitment to the women’s game in the past. However, the tactician - a world champion at senior level in 1995 with his native Norway - is eager to inject a little perspective. “We are well aware that the matches that truly matter begin on September 5th, so we can’t feel that we have reached our highest point. We must focus on getting the job done during the World Cup.”
Pellerud named his final squad last week and was forced to leave out defender and top player Camille Borneo, who suffered torn ligaments in her knee during a recent friendly with Brazil. “This is the most difficult part of the job,” said the vastly experienced coach, who also led Canada’s senior women to prominence in an extended recent stay in the Great White North. “But we must survive; we have to play.” Pellerud’s squad is a mixture of 12 foreign-based players – most at school in the USA – and 12 local girls.
When he took over the reins earlier this year, Pellerud was admirably open and honest about the long haul ahead, telling FIFA.com: “We are working from the ground floor here. First I will teach the players to play football the right way, then how to compete, and then hopefully how to win.” In light of their recent success in friendlies, he looks to have gotten through the system in time for the country’s opening party against Chile, also debutants at this level.
“These last games with an unbeaten streak of three international wins [all against teams that qualified for T&T 2010] should provide the confidence that is much needed. Most importantly, the team now realise that we are on the right track,” added Pellerud, a calm figure, but one determined to gain success in what he calls “one of the toughest tests” of his long and storied coaching career. It seems the last-minute training camp in Miami has paid dividends for the young, hopeful islanders.
“As a coach, you would always like to have more time to work with your team, but I think the quality of our preparations has been very good and I am satisfied,” added the boss, who was best pleased with his side’s 4-1 drubbing of Miami-based Barry University, who had among their ranks a member of the Puerto Rican senior women’s side. “The game gave us an opportunity to play a more composed game, and our passing game was much improved.”