U-17s 3 steps from glory
THE BARBADOS flag could be fluttering in the wind on the international football stage at the Under-17 World Cup Finals in Mexico, June 18 to July 10.
History beckons the national Under-17 football team who leave today for Jamaica where they will contest the CONCACAF finals – the last test before the World Cup show.
They depart buoyed by a thrilling 2-1 victory over a strong Trinidad and Tobago team in a friendly international last Sunday at the National Stadium.
Barbados have been drawn in a tough Group D. They will oppose Central American powerhouses Honduras on Tuesday at the Catherine Hall Multiplex in Montego Bay on Tuesday at noon and traditionally strong Canada on Thursday at 12:30 p.m.
The young Bajan Tridents are only three matches away from a berth in the finals in Mexico, as they only need to beat Honduras and Canada to advance to the quarter-final round.
But should they record one victory and draw the other group match, they could still qualify for the quarter-finals on goal difference, depending on the result in the Honduras vs Canada match.
Once they reach the quarter-finals, which are scheduled for February 22 and 23, they must overcome their opponents to secure a place among the last four CONCACAF teams.
The quarter-final draw will see the winners of Group A (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Haiti) and Group B (United States, Panama, Cuba) clashing with the runners-up in Group C (Jamaica, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago) and Group D (Barbados, Canada, Honduras) and vice versa.
The Kenville “Cab” Layne-coached Under-17 team did Barbados proud in 2010 with outstanding performances in the Caribbean Football Union’s first and second stages of qualification in Suriname and the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, they were not recognized at the recent National Sports Council Awards Ceremony, which saluted last year’s achievers in sports.
In Paramaribo last July, they blanked Grenada 6-0, thrashed St Vincent and the Grenadines 3-0, and drew 2-2 with hosts Suriname after coming from two goals down at half-time.
When the Barbadians travelled to the Dominican Republic, they defeated Haiti 2-1, lost 0-1 to the hosts, and trounced Guyana 6-1 to earn a place among the 12 best teams in the CONCACAF region, which includes the mighty Americans and just two other English-speaking Caribbean teams in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
Striker Jabarry “Pappy” Chandler has the distinction of being the top goal scorer in the entire CONCACAF region with eight goals.
The 16-year-old, a product of Ellerslie School, gave an exhibition of his sublime skills last Sunday against the Trinidadians. But he tended to hold on to the ball too long at times, even though it was pleasing to see the way this gifted player took charge of proceedings and carried the attack to opposing defenders.
A lot will also be expected of Diquan Adamson, who benefited from a training stint at English Premier League club Sunderland when he was chosen as the lone Barbadian from the Digicel John Barnes Soccer Youth Clinic.
Adamson has four goals in the tournament, while fellow striker Zari Prescod has weighed in with two strikes. Both Adamson and Prescod were on target against the Trinidadians.
Four new players – Romario Harewood, Mark Buschell, Ramon Hackett and Romario Watson – were added to the squad after the matches in the Dominican Republic.
The team has been very stingy in defence, with captain Amal Mayers, Raheem Thomas and Akeem Maloney doing a good job of protecting first-choice goalkeeper Joshua Hynam.
Whereas Barbados scored 19 goals in six first- and second-round matches, they have conceded a mere five, with the defence forming a key link with the hardworking midfield duo of Jomo Harris and Nathaneal Maynard.
Hynam, who missed the tune-up against Trinidad, paving the way for Hackett to make an impressive national debut, has recovered from a groin strain and will take his place on the team.