Trinidad & Tobago captain Anique Walker (#19) tries to hold off Costa Rica's Gloriana Villalobos in the third place match at the 2014 CONCACAF Women's Under-20 Championship. (Photo: Mexsport)
GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands --- The sound of pan music, clanking pot covers and chirpy calypso sing-alongs filled the air. That’s all you heard. Carnival -- ‘Trini’ style -- had taken over the Truman Bodden Sports Complex on a delightful Sunday evening.
Not that it mattered, but this musical bustle was being made by a small group of Trinidad and Tobago supporters, who cheered on their team as it dangled on the cusp of football history.
With auspicious leads against Costa Rica in the match for third place at the CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship, the Soca Princesses appeared on their way to becoming the first Caribbean side to qualify for a Women’s World Cup at any level.
The Trinidadians topped the Ticas 1-0, 2-0 and 3-1. Then, with fewer than 20 minutes remaining in normal time, everything changed. Costa Rica made a late rally, tying the score at 3-3, and forcing 30 additional minutes of play in perhaps the most dramatic game of the tournament.
Substitute Nicole Araya delivered two quickfire goals for the Central Americans in the first extra period -- the first breaking the deadlock and the other extending the lead -- that set them on a path to a 7-3 victory, sealing a berth in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada later this year.
The United States and Mexico, which met in the championship later at the same venue, had booked their spots thanks to semifinal triumphs.
The shocking turn around was not only a crippling blow to the Trinidad players, it also silenced the makeshift band.
Anique Walker, Trinidad’s inspirational captain, could not hide the disappointment as her face was etched in pain --- a heart-wrenching portrait.
She had given her team a driving start with two goals (16’, 28’) in a commanding first-half performance. No wonder the 18-year-old was the look of despair at the end.
“Yes, I am very disappointed.” Walker lamented. “I don’t know what to say than we lost our concentration and those two goals I scored don’t mean anything now as we have lost and we are not going to the World Cup.”
She said no more, hung her head, and quickly walked away.
The losing team’s coach, Izler Browne, too, was low in spirit, but managed some words.
“To know that we were right there is a hard pill to swallow,” she expressed. “I think conceding a goal so late and close to the final whistle put us in a sink and, unfortunately, we were not able to pull ourselves out of it.”