Reigning Caribbean Women champions Trinidad and Tobago are currently engaged in a training camp ahead of their opening fixture in the CONCACAF Caribbean World Cup qualifiers for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France.
The Women "Warriors" face off with US Virgin Islands in their opening Group C encounter on May 19th at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, Trinidad. Only the winners of each of the five groups will advance to the Caribbean Final round scheduled to start on July 21st at a venue to be announced. T&T won the 2014 Caribbean qualifiers with a 1-0 victory over Jamaica in the Final in Port of Spain prior to the CONCACAF Final Round.
Experienced utility player Karyn Forbes, a surviving member of the team which made it the inter-continental playoff with Ecuador for the 2015 Women's World Cup, said that the current squad is hoping to replicate the performances that brought them so close to glory four years ago, but they want to cross the final hurdle this time.
"Basically I think we needed these games last week to build our confidence," she said of the recent Caribbean Women's Challenge Series in which T&T topped their group ahead of Guyana, Grenada, and Suriname.
"Playing these games allows us to come out and build that cohesiveness around the team and it was a great opportunity to build off these games and prepare for the other harder matches coming up. We are in good shape now but definitely need to stay grounded and keep working to improve our level of play," Forbes said.
Trinidad and Tobago head coach Jamaal Shabazz has warned against complacency heading into the CONCACAF Caribbean qualifiers.
"This tournament (CFU Challenge Series) did not qualify us for anything," he said.
"What it has done is renewed our confidence and lifted the spirits of the programme. Now it's back down to serious preparation for the qualifying tournament. I think the players have responded well to being pushed. Going forward in the preparations for the qualifiers, I think that it's going to be very competitive for spots," Shabazz added.
"One thing for sure is we know that the Caribbean teams are not what they were four years ago. The gap has closed and we must treat every game and every opponent with due respect. Of course, we will be confident in our own ability but we have to realize that this will be no easy walk through and we must prove our worth from start of the qualification, Shabazz added.
Whatever the current motive, one thing's for sure, T&T are eying a place in France and are going to push themselves towards the CONCACAF Final phase in the United States later this year as the memories of missing out in 2015 qualification have not faded. Just ask T&T veteran midfielder Ayanna Russell who is also in the current squad for the upcoming campaign.
"That experience (2014) is going to have a huge impact. I still can't get over December 2nd because I knew to myself it was ours then but I know that nothing happens before its time. This time around, not that we didn't work hard four years ago but now we will take care of everything mentally, physically, socially… everything that we need to do to ensure that we have that cohesion on the field and realize that dream this time, " Russell said.