February 1, 2023

Cuba U17s carry the Caribbean flag

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PANAMA CITY, Panama – Cuba has played in two FIFA U-17 World Cups, but none since 1991.

That trend could soon change.

The Leones del Caribe advanced to the Classification Stage of the 2017 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship after finishing as runner-up to Costa Rica in Group B thanks to a draw with Suriname (1-1) and a win over Canada (2-1).

As a result, a top-two finish in three-team Group D, which also includes Honduras and the United States, will earn the only Caribbean side remaining in the competition a trip to India.

“I am happy that we are in the next stage of the tournament,” said Cuba head coach Rufino Sotolongo. “We need to now tell ourselves that we are two wins from qualifying for the U-17 FIFA World Cup. We have not qualified for a long time, so we want to create new memories for Cubans and for the Caribbean.

“We are the Caribbean’s last hope, so we intend to do our best.”

The last Caribbean side to compete in a U-17 World Cup was Jamaica in 2011. In order to repeat that feat, Cuba will need to overcome two of CONCACAF’s best.

“Honduras and the USA will be difficult games” Sotolongo remarked. “But we are taking things one game at a time. We have Honduras first and our goal is to get three points from that. Then the Hondurans face the USA. Then we play again, so the next 5 days are crucial. However, I am confident in my team’s ability to finish in the top two. We had a rough game against Costa Rica (0-3 loss) in the group stages, but it was a blip in our run I would say. I will ensure my players work harder for Honduras.”

IMAGE: Cuba (pictured) convenes for a team photo prior to facing Canada in the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship on April 25, 2017, in Panama City, Panama. (Photo: Straffon Images)

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