Wednesday 23 February 2022, 23:00

Catoya assesses the Concacaf hopefuls

  • 25 February to 12 March: Concacaf Women's U-20 Championship

  • Three tickets up for grabs for this year's FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup

  • World Cup host coach analyses the qualifying tournament

Roughly six months from now, the best young players in women’s football will travel to Costa Rica to compete at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2022™. Nine of the 16 finalists have already been confirmed: defending champions Japan, Korea DPR and Korea Republic (all AFC), New Zealand (OFC), Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands (all UEFA) and hosts Costa Rica. The next few tickets to this year’s tournament will be up for grabs in the hosts’ Concacaf zone from 25 February to 12 March, as 16 teams in four groups battle it out at the Concacaf Women's U-20 Championship. The best three sides from each group will progress to meet already-qualified sides Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Curacao and Suriname in the knockout phase, with the top three teams sealing their place in Costa Rica. The U-20 Women's World Cup hosts will not be competing at this continental showdown, giving them an opportunity to size up potential opponents from afar ahead of this summer’s tournament. Coach Jose Catoya sat down with us to take a closer look at the Concacaf qualifiers.

CRC U20WC Coach Jose Catoya

The favourites “It’s a complicated tournament because of the format, so there may be some surprises, but the favourites are Canada, the United States and Mexico, who are the top-ranked teams in this age group. However, you also have to include countries like Haiti, Jamaica and Panama, who we faced recently.“ Group E: USA, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Nicaragua “Apart from the United States, who are a force to be reckoned with, this group is quite evenly matched. There could even be one or two surprises, but it should be straightforward for the Americans.” Group F: Mexico, Honduras, Guyana and Panama “I think Mexico should also be classed as favourites given their performance at the last U-17 World Cup in 2018 and the fact that some of those players should still be involved here. After that, I’d back Panama to do well too.” Group G: Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, El Salvador and St. Kitts and Nevis “I think Canada are a powerhouse who must qualify, but there isn’t much to separate the others. We saw St. Kitts and Nevis when they faced Costa Rica in the first round of qualifying for 2023, and their physical strength could be a key factor that could make their group a little more unpredictable.” Group H: Haiti, Jamaica, Guatemala and Cuba “A finely-balanced group. I think Haiti and Guatemala have the edge here, but Jamaica’s strength could pose the other teams a few problems.”

Meanwhile Catoya is pleased with the progress his team are making as they prepare for this summer’s tournament. “We’ve already played some friendlies against Panama and Chile, and are planning to face Colombia soon too," he said. “Against Chile we saw some things we need to improve, such as the girls’ intensity and physical preparation as well as polishing up their technique and reinforcing tactics.” The tournament is just six months away. Are you excited? “It was an honour for me when the federation knocked on my door and asked me if I would coach this team. Having had the experience of coaching Venezuela’s U-20 team at the World Cup in Papua New Guinea and being part of the coaching staff at two other U-17 tournaments in Trinidad and Tobago in 2010 and Costa Rica in 2014, it’s something that excites me and makes me happy. The most important thing is to try and achieve the best possible result.” What will your experience be like as the coach of the host nation? “It will be the first time I experience the World Cup as a host, and that’s wonderful. I felt at home in Venezuela and it’s something quite indescribable. It was incredible enough to take part in a World Cup with other countries and on other continents, but to do it as coach of the host nation is priceless.” What are Costa Rica’s standout qualities as a host nation? “One of the most important things about this place is the tranquillity people will experience when they come from abroad with their families to see their daughters play at the tournament. It’s a spectacular country that lends itself to the occasion, with a beautiful environment that is so well cared for with greenery everywhere you look. In that sense it’s a country that really has it all, which makes it perfect for a World Cup!”