T&T's Under-17 football team will be aiming to top Group E when they face Mexico in their final group match of the CONCACAF Under 17 Championship from 4 pm at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Floria, USA on Sunday.
On Friday a double strike by Jaiye Sheppard and another from Justin Araujo Wilson spurred T&T to a come from behind 3-2 victory over Caribbean rivals Jamaica, which led the boys from the twin-island Republic to their second win of the tournament. Cristojaye Daley and Isaac Scott were the scorers for the young Reggae Boyz, who have now lost two games and will need to beat Bermuda to progress.
The performance brought a deserving win for the Stern John-coached outfit which secured its place in the second round knockout phase following a 3-1 win over Bermuda in its opener Wednesday. Mexico defeated Bermuda 5-0 on Friday and currently tops the group, having conceded fewer goals than T&T.
"I'm delighted for the boys. I spoke to them about the importance of this match and the fact that it is the biggest Caribbean derby and they went out there and demonstrated exactly how they felt about it. They followed my instructions and stuck to the plan. I think they had a bit of a score to settle as well, from a previous match a couple of years ago," John said.
"Now we have shown that we came here to compete because I don't think anyone gave us a chance coming into this tournament. Now we've proven them wrong and I'm backing my boys to keep their heads high and continue playing good football. It's still a far way off in terms of qualifying for Brazil, but I will give them credit for pulling off two wins and showing that they are no pushovers," John added.
"I haven’t met a bunch of boys who are more honest. They are willing to work hard for the cause and stick together as a team no matter what. We went down 1-0 to Jamaica and I think for me, I’d probably hold my hands up. We gave them too much credit or respect in the first half. We dropped off and let them play in front of us. But we realised we had to change the system and go back to our normal way of playing and we matched them in every department. We got ourselves back into the game and I think we dominated the game from then on,” John explained.
Meanwhile, goalscorer Sheppard said, “I think the boys played a fantastic game although we didn't get off to the best of starts. We really dug deep and fought with everything we had. It was also a great feeling to get on the scoresheet, not once but twice. Now that we have secured a place in the second round, we would just like to continue building momentum and improving our game. I believe that we can do great things as long as we remain focus and continue to listen to our coaching staff.”
Araujo-Wilson, who has now scored three times in the tournament said “Coach drilled into our heads that once we do what we did in practice, we would get the result, so it was just to stay disciplined. But in the Jamaica game, we overestimated the team hence we started in a more defensive position and then we saw we could match them and we were good enough. We went back into a regular formation which created more attacking opportunities causing us to score more goals."