Welcome along to the second part of the Women’s Caribbean Cup preview guide. Here’s the lowdown on Group B which consists of hosts Trinidad & Tobago, Antigua & Barbuda, Martinique and St Kitts & Nevis…
Date of WCC: 19-26 August
The schedule for the first Women’s Caribbean Cup (WCC) since 2000 has been finalised as host nation Trinidad & Tobago begin to put the finishing touches to general logistics and preparations. This competition is the first step on the way to the Women’s World Cup to be held in Canada next year, with another qualifying phase sandwiched in the middle which the United States will host.
Eight teams split into two groups will compete for qualification to the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, to be played in October, but only four can get through. The real test comes in the US as the likes of Mexico, Canada and a selection of Central American teams enter the fray and three automatic positions are up for grabs, one more acting as a play-off process.
So as you can gather this is a long haul with many separate parts to the qualifying procedure. To even be in with a shout of featuring in the Caribbean Cup each team had to go through a pre-qualifying system during the months of May and June.
Here’s a review of each side’s prospects in Group B at the Caribbean Cup and some information on how they fared in qualifying…
Group A – Trinidad & Tobago, Antigua & Barbuda, Martinique, St Kitts & Nevis
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
Trinidad & Tobago men’s team exudes dominance and power in the Caribbean and they are widely regarded as one of the most competitive nations in CONCACAF. It is no different with the female version of their setup. The Soca Princesses are one of the leading countries in the region alongside Jamaica and the target is undoubtedly to make it to the next round in the United States.
As hosts of the tournament – Trinidad appeared the most logical choice of location given its comparative size and resources – the girls didn’t have to go through any qualifying phase. This will give them an advantage in their group as the squad is likely to be more fresh and energetic, which is a huge boost in a warm climate.
Janelle Mcgee, a striker for Trinidad, very kindly gave The Home of Caribbean Football some comments on her side’s preparations and prospects heading into the opener against St Kitts on 20 August. McGee said: “The team has been preparing for some months now, since December the staff has really organized things for us to succeed. Week by week we have worked on different aspects of the game and doing it that way we had time to focus and work on particular tasks. We now have Randy Waldrum to help guide us to our first World Cup qualification and as a team we couldn’t be more excited.”
McGee touched on the effect of Randy Waldrum on her individual game: “Personally I got to experience his [Waldrum’s] coaching in 2008 for the Women’s Under-17 World Cup qualifications [a World Cup that Trinidad hosted] and I learned so much from him. It’s a great honor to be able to play for him again.” Waldrum, 52, is also the head coach of Houston Dash and has an impressive track record in managing in American football; guiding the University of Notre Dame to two title-winning campaigns. He has recently been assigned by the TTFA to take over – they’re already acquainted with him from a previous stint in 2008 with the women’s U17 side (as mentioned above) – and he was positioned in the stands for two friendlies versus Venezuela on July 6th and 8th. “It’s early days yet but there were some very positive things,” said Waldrum to the media after the first friendly, a 5-0 win in Trinidad’s favour. “Here you can tell these players have been playing from a young age. First impressions were very positive. There is a lot of talent in the right places.”
Shortly after the two friendlies, the team traveled to Houston for a training camp spanning across a month, from July 10th to August 10th. McGee says: “Then the final team will be selected. On the whole we’re looking great as we have some very good players like Kimeka Forbes as goalkeeper and Kenya Cordner as striker who has been scoring goals for the Seattle Reign. As a team we are ready to accept the challenges ahead of us and will try our best to make our country proud.”
It was thanks to a strong defensive backbone and the ability to break quickly which saw The Benna Girls earn full points in qualifying, finishing top of the pile with a five-point cushion on Saint Vincent & the Grenadines. Their results followed a familiar trend: they won each game by a 1-0 margin. A dogged defence helped enormously while Antigua had sufficient quality in forward areas to nick a goal.
In the opener against the US Virgin Islands – a match that included a pretty flat first half – Antigua came racing out the blocks in the second and Kitanya Hughes scored the all-important goal. Aruba followed and this time skipper Amelia Green displayed some fine play, galloping forward before unleashing a 25 yard effort on goal to fire her country into the lead. Little other action ensued. Antigua’s lanky No 16, Kanika Buckley was the hero in the final qualifier against St Vincent. This was a pivotal top-of-the-group clash as whichever side won progressed. Antigua’s goal derived from some central play before Buckley found herself in oceans of space wide right, she was able to accelerate forward and slide the ball in.
Granted, Group 1 was probably one of the easiest but Antigua took a professional and disciplined approach. They were one of three teams in qualifying to get full points, 9. (Haiti got 6 from two, Jamaica got 6 from two)
This is a much more difficult group to predict than the first simply because the competing teams are a lot more even. I have Trinidad down for top spot but both Antigua and St Kitts are equally balanced and it will be a real battle between the pair for second place. St Kitts perhaps have more goals in them as evidenced in their qualifiers but Antigua’s defence is just so solid. To avoid sitting on the fence, I’m sticking my neck out and calling Antigua to snatch second.
Martinique’s story is an interesting and rather confusing one: as a non-FIFA nation they’re not allowed to qualify for any FIFA organised event. A member of both CONCACAF and CFU, Martinique can play in any competitions arranged on behalf of those governing bodies but not a World Cup, for example. Without probing the CFU for further information, I would assume the French overseas department – the Ligue de Football de la Martinique is a branch of the French Football Federation – is merely participating in the Women’s Caribbean Cup for personal developmental reasons. If this is the case (logic suggests so) then it begs the question: is it really worth the Martinique squad even being there? Should they qualify for the Women’s World Cup the rules state they won’t be able to play anyway as they’re not associated with FIFA. This is yet to be cleared up. For now, anyway, we’ll focus on their path to the WCC and their chances of success…
Placed in Group 2 (just three teams involved as Dominica couldn’t get hold of visas in time, as reported in the first part of the preview), Martinique started off with no slip ups, overcoming Barbados 3-1. This was 50% of the job done and made their final game against Puerto Rico a little easier given they had a two-goal swing on them going into it. Prisca Carin salvaged a draw for Martinique in Bayamon, Puerto Rico which was enough to facilitate a trip to the next round, purely on goal difference.
Abiding by the above predictions, Martinique will finish bottom of their group. This is perhaps unfair given they did win their qualifying group, however, it is difficult to see them doing better than Antigua and St Kitts. I’m still left bewildered as to how, if they did progress to the tournament in the US, they’d go about playing in the World Cup anyway. If anyone knows anything I don’t – maybe I’m missing something obvious – then please do leave a comment in the comments box below this article and let us know.
ST KITTS & NEVIS
The Sugar Girlz’s results in qualifying were a mixed bag. With all games being played at the TCIFA (Turks & Caicos Islands Football Association) National Academy in Providenciales – a popular beach destination – St Kitts kick-started their pursuit of World Cup qualification with an emphatic beating of a weak Cayman Islands side. Phoenetia Browne, whose father Dave represented the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) and City University of New York (CUNY) at soccer, completed a hat-trick, rounding off her three goals in the 90th minute. Kerisha Powell and Chelsey Harris also got on the score-sheet.
Coach Dennis Martin’s girls produced a similarly striking performance against hosts Turks & Caicos Islands. Browne once again ran the show scoring two goals before the half-hour mark with Caroline Springer and Lavern Francis contributing in the second half. It ended 0-4 and St Kitts had secured qualification to the ensuing round with a match to spare because it was mathematically impossible for Cayman Islands and Turks & Caicos to usurp them in the table. Job done.
The final group encounter with Bermuda didn’t matter as much now but it was still important for both sides to see how they fared against one another, given that they the pair could meet again in the US should they make it out of the WCC. Bermuda went 0-2 up inside 17 minutes – Akelya Furbert and Shuntae Todd (via a penalty) the scorers – before the outstanding Browne pulled one back for St Kitts. That was her sixth strike in half as many outings. Dominique Richardson sealed the three points for the Bermudians in the dying minutes.
Women’s football in St Kitts is on an upwards trajectory and at local and national level the country is making important strides. Technical Director of the SKNFA, Lenny Lake, told SKNVibes Sports in June 2014: “With female football I am smiling and I am happy because it is on the up. If you want to compare them with the top teams in the Caribbean, I think that is unfair because in 2010 we didn’t have a female league. In 2011 we had 100 players to choose our National Team from and now in 2014 we have seven teams with an average of 20 players on each team and some with young players coming through, which will increase it to between 200 and 300 players.”
Having said that, though, there’s no hiding the fact this is a very strong and competitive group and only the top two advance. If St Kitts can keep star player Browne fit and fighting, which is crucial to their prospects, then they stand a much better shot. But it promises to go down to the wire and I feel Martin’s side may well just fall short. Nevertheless, if this does happen, they should still feel immensely proud of making the WCC in the first place.
By Nathan Carr