Stage set in Trinidad and Tobago
© Foto-net

The Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago is all set to host the second FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, an exciting event that is still in its infancy and which brings together the brightest hopes in the women’s game.

The inaugural tournament was staged in New Zealand two years ago and proved to be a resounding success, attracting a total attendance of 207,803. At the end of a competition dominated by Asian teams, and in which the representatives of South and Central America failed to win a single match, it was Korea DPR who were crowned maiden champions after beating USA in the final.

A total of seven teams will be making their competition debut at Trinidad and Tobago 2010: Chile, Republic of Ireland, Spain, Mexico, South Africa, Venezuela and the host nation. And while the holders will be back to defend their title, the runners-up from two years ago failed to qualify from the CONCACAF Zone, a huge surprise given the strength of the women’s game in the USA.

There are sure to be yet more surprises over the next three weeks and plenty of new landmarks as well. New Zealand 2008 yielded no fewer than 113 goals, a total that could well be eclipsed in the Caribbean. And on the individual front there is also the question of who will succeed Germany’s Dzsenifer Marozsan and Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi as the respective winners of the adidas Golden Shoe and the adidas Golden Ball two years ago.

Hosts with the most
The southernmost islands in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago are looking forward to welcoming the world elite for the second time in nine years. Back in 2001 the country hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup, a competition won by a France side inspired by a string of superb performances from former Liverpool striker Florent Sinama-Pongolle.

Making their debut in a FIFA women’s tournament, the hosts have left nothing to chance, recruiting veteran women’s coach Even Pellerud, the man who made Norway a global superpower in the 1990s before raising Canada’s standing in the early years of the new millennium.

And if their most recent warm-up games are anything to go by, the Soca Princesses would seem to have a fighting chance on home soil. As well as beating Venezuela twice, T&T also downed the Irish, giving their coach genuine grounds for optimism.

“Those wins have given us a lot of confidence,” said Pellerud. “The most important thing is that the team knows it’s on the right track. We are ready for what is a major challenge and we can’t wait for this fantastic event to start.”

Among the legions of fans getting behind Pellerud’s warriors are the men’s national team, who have been voicing their support for the Soca Princesses. “I think they can go a long way and do the nation proud,” said striker Kerry Baptiste.

“The people have to get behind the players though. That’s what counts. The players need to feel that support from the stands and they need to unite with the fans to enjoy this event and give it the backing it deserves.”

The five venues for the tournament are the capital of Port of Spain, Couva, Marabella and Arima/Malabar, all of them on the island of Trinidad, and Scarborough, which is on Tobago. And no matter where they play, the 16 teams on show are sure to receive the warmest of welcomes in what promises to be a memorable few weeks.