Trinidad and Tobago travelled to the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007 with high hopes of creating an upset or two in Group F and maybe even sneaking into the last 16. A 4-1 defeat in the opener against Ghana was followed by a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Colombia and the bitter realisation that reaching the knockout stage was harder than first imagined.
"We still have a lot of work to do to hold our own against certain teams," explained coach Anton Corneal in an interview with FIFA.com. "We need to be able to test ourselves against countries of a higher standard than we have in the Caribbean. We must also improve physically, technically and tactically. We've still got a lot to do if we want to be on the same level as the other teams."
That said, the coach is far from dissatisfied with the performances of his young charges at the tournament. "We're such a small island and yet we've really given a good account of ourselves," Corneal continued. "You mustn't forget that we come from a tiny country, so we only have a limited pool of players to choose from. This tournament is a great thing for our lads and we need to put the experience to good use."
The FIFA U-17 World Cup has turned out to be a real eye-opener for the boys from the Caribbean. "The tournament has been incredibly interesting, particularly when you look at how teams from our area have fared," Corneal continued. "It proves quite clearly that we need to play more often against the best teams in the world. We need to scout players and develop them earlier. There is no magic formula, but we need a new programme for unearthing and nurturing young talent."
A unique experience and opportunity
"We need to bring about change in many areas in order to be more competitive, even if change is never easy and can't be done overnight. We learn something from every defeat, and I hope that we can take the lessons from the tournament and use them to help us develop."
The young Warriors will have another chance to learn some more on Sunday when they face Germany, and, as in the two previous matches, they will again be able to count on their family and friends who have travelled all the way to Korea to lend loud and colourful support to the team. "I'm delighted that so many fans have come to cheer us on. It's probably a unique experience for them since we don't often qualify for a World Cup. This support is very important for us," said Corneal.
With the pressure off and the crowd behind them, Trinidad and Tobago are looking to end the tournament on a high note. The Round of 16 may now be no more than a distant dot on the horizon, but the outsiders still have high hopes ahead of their final group match against Germany. "We're going to fight and maybe make history," smiles Corneal. "This last group match could end up being historic. We've yet to win a match at the final phase of a World Cup in this age group. My boys have the chance to write history and I hope that this will give them some additional motivation."