Check out my round up of the recently played preliminary Caribbean qualifiers for next year’s U-20 and U-17 World Cups…
Note: This is the preliminary Caribbean qualifying at U-20 and U-17 level. The four group winners and three best runners-up join Curacao in the final round (U-20). The six group winners and best runner-up join Trinidad & Tobago in the final round (U-17).
Note: Please take into consideration that not every country is covered under the ‘Summary’ section. This is meant to be a brief round up of the latest action and not a comprehensive account otherwise the article wouldn’t be manageable.
15/06/16: Group 1 – St Maarten 0-9 Puerto Rico, Antigua & Barbuda 2-1 Cuba. Group 2 – Trinidad & Tobago 1-0 Guadeloupe, St Lucia 2-0 Turks & Caicos Islands. Group 4 – Dominican Republic 2-1 St Kitts & Nevis, Jamaica 2-1 Dominica.
17/06/16: Group 1 – St Maarten 0-6 Antigua & Barbuda, Cuba 2-1 Puerto Rico. Group 2 – Trinidad & Tobago 11-0 Turks & Caicos Islands, St Lucia 1-0 Guadeloupe. Group 4 – Dominican Republic 3-0 Dominica, St Kitts & Nevis 2-0 Jamaica.
19/06/16: Group 1 – St Maarten 0-5 Cuba, Puerto Rico 1-1 Antigua & Barbuda. Group 2 – Trinidad & Tobago 1-1 St Lucia, Guadeloupe 5-0 Turks & Caicos Islands. Group 4 – Dominican Republic 1-2 Jamaica, St Kitts & Nevis 4-2 Dominica.
29/06/16: Group 3 – Haiti 8-0 Anguilla, Bermuda 3-0 Cayman Islands.
01/07/16: Group 3 – Haiti 3-0 Bermuda, Cayman Islands 4-1 Anguilla.
03/07/16: Group 3 – Haiti 5-0 Cayman Islands, Bermuda 7-0 Anguilla.
Final round (October): Group A – Curacao, Antigua & Barbuda, St Kitts & Nevis, Bermuda. Group B – Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago, Cuba, St Lucia. Five countries will qualify for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship and then from there four CONCACAF teams will qualify for the U-20 World Cup in South Korea.
Summary: A young Benna Boys side bolstered by a handful of British-born players produced three strong performances, including a somewhat surprising victory over Cuba in the opener, to take the Group 1 title. Defending Caribbean champions at U-20 level Trinidad & Tobago were expected to qualify on home soil and they did just that as well as growing force St Lucia from Group 2. Arguably the biggest shock to come out of these U-20 qualifiers was Jamaica’s failure to advance having slipped up against St Kitts & Nevis, 2-0. I was rather taken aback given that head coach Ricardo Gardner was working with much of the same group of players that performed so well at last year’s CONCACAF U-17 Championship. Haiti often field strong sides at youth level and they comfortably breezed through Group 3, impressively scoring 16 goals and keeping three clean sheets. In terms of the final round, Group A is particularly interesting as there are no ‘traditionally bigger’ countries in there. All four competitors stand more or less of an equal chance. Group B consists of the supposedly stronger countries and should throw up some genuinely tight and exciting matches. The field is wide open.
15/07/16: Group 4 – US Virgin Islands 1-5 Antigua & Barbuda, Jamaica 4-1 Guyana.
17/07/16: Group 4 – US Virgin Islands 0-1 Guyana, Jamaica 3-1 Antigua & Barbuda.
19/07/16: Group 4 – US Virgin Islands 0-9 Jamaica, Antigua & Barbuda 3-0 Guyana.
20/07/16: Group 1 – St Kitts & Nevis 2-2 Barbados, Cuba 9-0 Dominica. Group 2 – Cayman Islands 4-0 Aruba, Haiti 3-0 Puerto Rico. Group 3 – St Vincent & the Grenadines 0-2 Grenada, Bermuda 2-1 St Lucia. Group 5 – Guadeloupe 8-0 St Martin, Curacao 4-2 Dominican Republic. Group 6 – Suriname 6-0 Anguilla, British Virgin Islands 1-0 The Bahamas.
22/07/16: Group 1 – St Kitts & Nevis 2-1 Dominica, Cuba 5-0 Barbados. Group 2 – Cayman Islands 2-0 Puerto Rico, Haiti 10-0 Aruba. Group 3 – St Vincent & the Grenadines 0-1 Bermuda, St Lucia 2-0 Grenada. Group 5 – Guadeloupe 3-0 Dominican Republic, Curacao 10-0 St Martin. Group 6 – Suriname 3-0 British Virgin Islands, The Bahamas 2-0 Anguilla.
24/07/16: Group 1 – St Kitts & Nevis 0-5 Cuba, Barbados 5-2 Dominica. Group 2 – Cayman Islands 2-4 Haiti, Aruba 2-1 Puerto Rico. Group 3 – St Vincent & the Grenadines 0-5 St Lucia, Bermuda 1-1 Grenada. Group 5 – Guadeloupe 0-0 Curacao, Dominican Republic 4-2 St Martin. Group 6 – Suriname 2-1 The Bahamas, Anguilla 2-0 British Virgin Islands.
Final round (September): Group A – Trinidad & Tobago, Bermuda, Jamaica, Haiti. Group B – Cuba, Suriname, Curacao, Guadeloupe. Five Caribbean countries will qualify for the CONCACAF U-17 Championship and then from there four CONCACAF teams will qualify for the U-17 World Cup in India.
Summary: Andrew Edwards-led Jamaica compensated for their U-20 disappointment by storming to the Group 4 title – scoring 16 times and conceding just twice – racking up maximum points along with Cuba (Group 1), Haiti (Group 2) and Suriname (Group 6). Bermuda did well to finish top of Windward Islands-heavy Group 3 while Curacao showed the importance of continuity: they won the U-15 CFU Championship last year and the same bunch of players delivered the goods this time around. There will be a certain amount of pressure on Haiti to perform in the next round, too, mainly because they are the defending Caribbean champions at U-17 level. They didn’t have many problems qualifying from this early stage but were perhaps pushed closest by the Cayman Islands, who won two out of three games and were unfortunate not to advance. They enjoyed a short training camp in Florida as preparation for the qualifiers and that seemed to serve them well. Puerto Rico’s national team might be flourishing at this present moment in time but their U-17 team lost every match in Group 2 which underlines the need for more youth development work on the island. The British Virgin Islands got off to a good start before predictably dipping against Suriname and less predictably against Anguilla, with the side squandering a string of great chances. A number of Daniel Sturridge Academy players joined the BVI for their qualifying campaign. Finally, a mention for St Lucia’s social media department – their player profiles on Facebook and starting line-up graphics on Twitter were really useful and we definitely need more of this kind of exposure for the region’s up-and-coming players.
By Nathan Carr