Creating History Again
By Will Hitzelberger
In 2018, I was a part of the historic qualifying of the first ever Women’s Caribbean team for a World Cup– four years later we did it again.
I was briefly removed from the program in early 2022 due to coaching changes by the Federation. However, after the strong voices of the players, myself, former and new coaches, leadership was regained. We took back over about 2 weeks before the camp to prepare for the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying tournament.
So with two weeks to plan, we selected the team, camp dates, camp location, and a ton of other logistics to give us the best shot to qualify. The new head coach, Lorne Donaldson, is based in Denver, Colorado, and we decided for several reasons that would be the best place to hold camp. For one, we would be able to use his club (Real Colorado) to pull off the quick planning. First class fields, hotel resources, catering, transportation are just to name a few. We also liked the idea of training in altitude for two weeks, and then coming out of it.
The camp and tournament fell during an interesting time. Most of our English and European-based players were in a much-needed off-season. So, for the most part the team did not show up with a high level of fitness. We obviously were aware of this coming into camp, but after the first day it was clear we had some work on our hands. With the short amount of time, it became a fine balance of accomplishing the football training needed, extra fitness, and avoiding injuries.
Each day kind of laid out like this:
- 8:30 Breakfast
- 11:00 Training
- 12:30 Ice Baths
- 1:00 Lunch
- 2:00 Lift Groups
- 7:00 Dinner
- 8:00 Team Meeting
We broke camp in Denver in pretty good shape. The team was definitely more fit than they were two and a half weeks prior, and any muscular strains had healed up.
Then we were off to Mexico…
Mexico hosted the tournament, which they did not qualify for in the last World Cup, and the opening game of the tournament is Mexico vs Jamaica. In Denver, before we left, we warned the team that anything and everything that could go wrong for us, WILL. We knew Mexico was going to make everything difficult: hotel, fields, transportation, food, etc. If they could make something a challenge for us to throw us off it was going to happen. AND IT DID!
We used it as fuel, we had to. They were sending us to this field an hour and half from our hotel for training everyday leading up to the game. One day they sent us on a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride only to end up across the street from our hotel at a field we couldn’t train on (bus driver didn’t speak English).
Well, that’s all we needed.
Opening game of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying and we beat Mexico 1-0.
The other two teams in our group were the USA and Haiti.
If we win two games, we are going to the World Cup again. We were strategic with our line up against the USA, suffered the loss against the number one team in the world and prepared for Haiti.
Four years ago, we beat Haiti in Haiti to eventually go on and qualify for the World Cup. We knew it was going to be a game, the winner was going to qualify for the World Cup. We dominated the game 4-0, and qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand!!!
The tournament isn’t over yet… An Olympic birth is still on the table. Only two teams from CONCACAF qualify for the Olympics. The winner of the tournament will automatically qualify, and the second and third place teams will play a one game playoff for the second spot.
For the semi-final game we were up against Canada, number 7 in the world. We knew if we finished third in the tournament we would give ourselves a chance to qualify for the Olympics. We were strategic against Canada and took another loss.
Now for the third place game against big rivals Costa Rica.
Tied after 90 minutes we entered overtime. With an incredible goal from a sub, we finished third in the tournament and an opportunity to qualify for the Olympics against Canada in September of 2023.
The planning for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup begins.