The sunshine turned to rain when Croatian skipper Niko Kranjcar converted a penalty in each half, and Trinidad’s hopes of glory disintegrated into disappointment as the home team lost the opening match of the FIFA Under-17 World Championship in Port of Spain, 1-2.
The local lads, craftily coached by Jamaican 1998 World Cup coach René Simoes, fought gallantly against their generally more accomplished opponents from Europe but, apart from a flurry in the middle of the second half when they levelled the scores with a fine solo goal by Nkosi Blackman, they failed to set the pace and exploit the vocal support from 12,000 rain-drenched fans.
The thunderstorm that immediately preceded the kick-off put a premature end to the colourful opening ceremony but lifted for the island’s best-known steel drum band to give an unprecedented rendering of the FIFA anthem, accompanying the teams to the pitch for the opening of the ninth edition of FIFA’s world teenage championship.
The weather also had its impact on the attendance in the Hasely Crawford Stadium, where everyone present stood for a minute’s silence before kick-off in honour of the victims of this week’s incidents in the United States.
The next two and a half weeks will see 16 teams competing for the Under-17 title and for the trophy last won in New Zealand two years ago by Brazil. The title-holders begin their defence on Friday against Australia in Port of Spain, while the US face Japan and France play Nigeria (winners in 1985 and 1993) in the first day of games in Tobago.