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Wildin's international exploits

17 February 2017

Luther Wildin jetted off to Costa Rica at the weekend to participate in the CONCACAF Under 20 Championship for Antigua and Barbuda.

The 19-year-old is in line to compete with Mexico, Canada and Honduras in Group A.

The Benna Boys qualified for the competition by progressing through two group stages in the Caribbean Football Union's Men's Under 20 tournament last year.

In the first, they topped a four-team cohort including Cuba, Puerto Rico and Sint Maarten, taking seven points from the available nine, before repeating the feat in the next group, besting Bermuda, St Kitts & Nevis and Curacao to secure a place at the finals.

That earned them a spot in the semi-finals of the CFU tournament, where they squeezed past Trinidad and Tobago on penalties to advance to the final, but they were beaten 4-0 by Haiti in the showpiece match.

Nonetheless, Wildin was in fine form during the competition, scoring his first goals for his country. The first came in a 6-0 thrashing of Sint Maarten and the second was a dramatic late equaliser against St Kitts & Nevis.

Speaking during his preparation for the trip, the defender said: "I'm really looking forward to it and all the lads are too. It’s what we worked so hard for in the tournament last year.

"I've been doing well on my loan at Grantham Town but it’s always nice to get away with Antigua. To play against big nations like Mexico and Canada will be a massive test for me."

By progressing beyond the first group stage, Wildin and his compatriots made history for Antigua & Barbuda.

And he is determined to create more over in Costa Rica.

"Getting through the first round was massive because the country had never done that before," he explained. "Scoring against Saint Maarten was a massive moment for me personally as it was my first international goal.

"In the second round, every game we won was a bonus. Getting the goal against St Kitts and Nevis was huge and helped the team get a point in that game.

"It's a great opportunity for me. I can't wait to get back out there for Antigua and hopefully score a couple more goals."

The youngster will be travelling out for the tournament with his good friend Zayn Hakeem, who recently signed his first professional contract with Mansfield Town.

And the familiarity of a friendly face makes transitioning from club football to the international game much easier.

"I've known Zayn for years," he said. "We played in the same Sunday league team together. It's always nice to play alongside people you know and Elliot Webber and Kalis Gore, who are at Leicester, are also flying out.

"Having them there will hopefully strengthen the squad and give us a chance of doing well against these bigger sides." 

Wildin expects the competition will present a different challenge to what he is accustomed to.

"Having experienced men's football at Grantham this season, I think it will be very different.

"I'll be back playing in central midfield so I'll have to be more patient and smarter on the ball because the teams we are up against have a lot more quality.

"I'm hoping to take what I’ve learned from men's football into the tournament because I think it can help the team," he added.

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