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Last chance for T&T girls
T&T moved into today’s second playoff match after finishing a commendable fourth at the Concacaf Women’s Championship. But, with the fourth placed finish, head coach Randy Waldrum’s team already exhausted two chances to qualify directly to next year’s World Cup.
A semifinal win, or third-placed finish would have done the trick.
Injuries ultimately haunted the Women Soca Warriors at the Concacaf Championships, following their exploits in the preceding qualifying tournament, the CFU Women’s Caribbean Cup, which was hosted and won by T&T.
In August, T&T won all four matches at the Caribbean competition, scoring 21 goals and conceding none to advance easily to the Concacaf Championship.
Then, at the region’s biggest tournament, T&T was pitted in group A with the world’s top ranked nation in women’s football and tournament host, USA, for the very first fixture.
The Americans prevailed 1-0 after a gritty affair, which was unsatisfactory by the standards of the host team yet a positive one for the Caribbean team.
That result proved to be the “best” result by any team which faced the US, the eventual tournament champion. Buoyed and confident, T&T then faced Haiti and Guatemala in the next two matches, and won 1-0 and 2-1, respectively.
The triumph over Haiti was also deemed exceptional as the Women Warriors held onto a one-goal lead to win the match with ten players after goalkeeper Kimika Forbes was red carded with over 25 minutes to play.
Four days after facing Guatemala, T&T met Costa Rica in the semifinal for the first chance to automatically qualify for the World Cup.
However, with the scores locked at 1-1 after 120-plus minutes, Costa Rica prevailed on the penalty shoot-out to put T&T into the third-place match.
Forty-eight hours later, T&T faced Mexico for the second of three chances to qualify for the World Cup.
After resting a number of key players in its semifinal loss to the US, Mexico came fit and prepared for the third-place showdown.
And, again, 90 minutes expired, this time with the scores locked at 2-2, but the Central Americans ultimately advanced with two unanswered goals in extra time.
T&T finished its Concacaf account on October 26 and then immediately began preparing for the two-legged Ecuador clash scheduled less than two weeks later.
A subsequent seven-day camp in Mexico City prepared the Women Warriors for the testing conditions of Quito, Ecuador, the tallest official capital of any country.
Quito came and went with T&T holding off the Ecuadorians with a goalless draw, setting up the perfect finale to T&T’s road to Canada.
Four training camps and two tournaments later, the T&T women have themselves their best chance ever of qualifying for a World Cup.
Fifa ranking: 46th
Population: 1.3 million
Previous Women’s World Cup appearances: None
Qualification method: Fourth in Concacaf qualifying
Like T&T, Ecuador never qualified for a women’s World Cup and only a few months ago, it looked all but certain that Ecuador’s dream would once again come to an early end after a campaign of ups and downs.
Coach Vanessa Arauz’s Ecuador team ultimately squeezed out of the two stages at the 2014 Copa América Femenina, Comnebol’s (South America) qualification tournament to book the intercontinental playoff spot.
Hosted in Ecuador, the initial stage was contested by all ten Comnebol teams split into two groups, with the top two teams from each moving into the final round.
In one group, Ecuador finished second but only on goal difference above Uruguay after both teams finished on six points. Ecuador recorded narrow 1-0 wins against Peru and Venezuela, before losing 1-0 to Colombia and 2-1 to Uruguay, thus narrowly advancing to the four-team final round.
Ecuador was stumped 4-0 by top qualifier Brazil, before losing again, 2-1, to Colombia.
Needing a win in the third and final match to finish third, Ecuador did just that with a dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Argentina after the latter held a two-goal first half advantage, to salvage one last ditched attempt at qualification for Canada.
But, better late than never.
Despite never qualifying for the World Cup, Ecuador still underachieved in its campaign, all the way up to the first leg playoff match in Quito last month when a capacity crowd at Atahualpa Stadium was left disappointed with the home team’s inability to break down the defense of a tiny Caribbean nation.
Fifa ranking: 49th
Population: 15.2 million
Previous Women’s World Cup appearances: none
Qualification method: Third in Concacaf qualifying
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