Antigua & Barbuda players (pictured) during a walk through at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa on February 16, 2017, a day before it opens the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship against Mexico. (Photo: Victor Straffon/Straffon Images)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Antigua & Barbuda’s first game in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship since 1986 couldn’t be more demanding. On Friday, the Benna Boys open play in the 2017 edition with a meeting against three-time defending champion Mexico at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa.
Regardless of that challenge, the Caribbean runner-up is in Costa Rica to compete for honors, not just to make up the numbers.
“We are in this tournament for a reason,” defender Vashami Allen told CONCACAF.com. “We have earned the right to be here from the CFU (Caribbean Football Union) qualifiers and as we prepare to face Mexico, I am confident we will do our best on Friday evening.
“We have worked hard in training and looked at video footage, so I feel we will work together as a team.”
Allen, who has already played for the senior squad, was key to Antigua & Barbuda earning a second-place finish in last year’s Caribbean qualifying competition, where it fell to powerful Haiti in the final. Along the way, he helped the Benna Boys post two shutouts during the final round.
Although Antigua & Barbuda is taking another step up the competitive ladder at the CONCACAF event, Allen is confident of making mark.
“Canada, Honduras and Mexico are all tough opponents, all teams who have experience in this tournament and all who have played at FIFA U-20 World Cups,” he finished. “But, as a team, we are working well and gelling together nicely, so we are looking to impress in Costa Rica.
“It won’t be easy, but we will do our best.”