Twenty-two of twenty-four spots in next summer’s Women’s World Cup have been sewn up. The two remaining spots will be determined over the next month in two home-and-away playoff series’. The Netherlands will face off against Italy beginning on November 22nd or 23rd for one spot. Italy ousted Ukraine last month to reach this stage while the Netherlands knocked off Kim Little’s Scotland.
First up, however, is the opening leg of the CONMEBOL-CONCACAF Playoff between Ecuador and Randy Waldrum’s plucky Soca Princesses of Trinidad and Tobago. The Soca Princesses won over many fans during the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Tournament in the United States last month with their much publicized financial issues as well as the strength of their play on the pitch.
The team famously showed up for training in Dallas with only $500 and no immediate financial support from the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA). When Waldrum took to Twitter to seek help, many in the TTFA felt the sting of public embarrassment. Since then, there has been a backlash from certain factions against Waldrum for generating what has been deemed an embarrassing situation to the country.
Of course, the best way for the TTFA to avoid embarrassment would be to deliver on promises of support for the players and the team. As of last week, the national senior women’s players had yet to receive match fees and per diems which had been promised to them with various excuses for the delay. After reports over the situation in Trinidad and Tobago, it appears that the players may finally have received their allowances at the end of the week.
Focusing on the football, however; at the invitation of the Mexican Federation, the Soca Princesses arrived in Mexico City on October 30th for training at altitude in advance of the first leg match in Ecuador on Saturday November 8th. The match will be played in Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa in Quito at an elevation of 9,127 feet.
T&T trained in Mexico City through November 5th to prepare for the conditions they will face in Ecuador, then departed for Guayaquil at sea level. They will travel to Quito on Friday. Unfortunately, members of the team still in college in the United States were not able to participate in the Mexico City camp and will join the team in Ecuador instead.
While in Mexico City, the Soca Princesses scrimmaged against the Marco Soccer Academy and recorded a 6-0 win. While Waldrum has been tight lipped about the status of key players who were carrying knocks during the CONCACAF Championship, the fact that Tasha St Louis, in particular, played and scored in this game is a positive sign.
Ecuador comes into this playoff, like Trinidad and Tobago, having never qualified for the Women’s World Cup. In CONMEBOL first stage qualifying, they were drawn into a group with Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru and finished in second place behind Colombia to advanced to the second stage with two wins and two losses.
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In the second stage, they finished in third place behind Brazil and Colombia and just ahead of Argentina to qualify for this playoff. Ecuador and Trinidad and Tobago have faced one opponent in common in the past twelve months: Venezuela. Ecuador beat Venezuela in qualifying by a score of 1-0. Trinidad and Tobago faced Venezuela in a pair of friendlies in July and won both by scores of 5-0 and 2-0.
These results may bode well for the Soca Princesses, but there is a world of difference between the level of play in a qualifier and in a friendly, so they must be taken with a grain of salt. As is fairly common of the South American sides, Ecuador will likely be a technically skilled side but not particularly athletic. If Trinidad and Tobago can handle the altitude, the pace of players like Ahkeela Mollon and Kennya Cordner will likely give Ecuador fits.
With Kimika Forbes in goal, Trinidad and Tobago have proven to be a difficult team to score against. Continue to keep that tight back line and hit on the counter-attack and the Soca Princesses stand a very good chance of qualifying for their first ever World Cup.
From Ecuador, players to keep an eye on are Giannina Lattanzio, who may well prove to be the primary goal scoring threat, and Erika Vásquez, who should captain the squad. The team is relatively unknown with most players plying their trade in the domestic league. It is generally a young team with many in their early 20s.
Ecuador has named its 22-player roster for Saturday’s match. Trinidad and Tobago do not appear to have named their squad as of yet. A number of players arrived in Ecuador on November 5th with U.S. college based players still due to arrive. The return leg in Trinidad and Tobago will take place on December 2nd.