In late August, Trinidad & Tobago beat Saint Lucia 3-2 at home to win Group 2 of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Under-17 tournament.
That Saint Lucia team missed key players through injury or suspension, but the team management and the boys themselves never used that as an excuse.
In fact, having placed second in Group 2, they still earned the right to advance to the Under-17 finals in Haiti. There, they discovered, their opening match would be against none other than Trinidad & Tobago.
In the last match, Noah Nicholas had taken over the captaincy of Team Saint Lucia, in the absence of Lael Cherry. This time, Lael was absent again, his workload at school forcing him to stay behind.
But Nicholas, who attends Piaye Secondary and plays for Vieux Fort South, took over the leadership reins again on Sunday evening at the Stade Sylvio Cator in Port au Prince.
This time, though, he let his boots do the talking, netting in the 26th and 60th minutes to lead Saint Lucia to victory. T&T would certainly have been aware of Nicholas’ prowess.
He scored twice in the opening round, both goals coming in the demolition of Curacao. In May, he scored twice against Central Castries to lead Vieux Fort South to the Saint Lucia Football Association’s Under-17 Inter-District title.
He was also named Most Outstanding Striker in the FA’s Under-16 competition. But the Trinidadians would also have been aware that the Saint Lucia youth team is anything but a one-man show.
Under the guidance of Cassim Louis, Nyrone Winter – also of Vieux Fort South and Vieux Fort Comprehensive – has emerged as a goal threat, leading all scorers in the first round and leading Saint Lucia into the finals. Cherry and Bradley Cyril have also come up big for this team.
Defensively, the Saint Lucians have been stout, despite conceding those three goals at home to Trinidad & Tobago.
Saint Lucia gave up just one clear cut chance to T&T in the first half on Sunday evening. Saint Lucia now has pole position in Group A, with Haiti and Barbados playing later Sunday night.
On Tuesday 21 October, Saint Lucia plays Haiti at 7:30pm, before finishing off with a Thursday tilt against Barbados. Group B will see Cuba, Guadeloupe, Jamaica and Martinique in action.
Group winners play each other next Sunday, whilst the runners-up in each group will play for third place. Five teams from CFU will go through to the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Honduras next February.
From a total of 12 teams in Honduras – including the five CFU qualifiers, three qualifiers from the Central America playoffs, along with the host nation, Mexico, Canada and the USA – four will move on to represent CONCACAF at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile.