|Costa Rica||Trinidad & Tobago|
|2007-02-04||Estadío Alejandro Morera Soto||Alajuela, Costa Rica||0|
T&T outplayed by Costa Rica
|"I don't know if a lot of these players can make the next step," stated Trinidad and Tobago head coach Wim Rijsbergen.
"It was not a hard game...this is just the reality. We can see that making the next level will be a very difficult one. I guarantee that if we go with this team to Chile, for instance, it will be a much tougher game than this."
A cold dose of reality was administered on Sunday at the Morera Soto Stadium in Alajuela, Costa Rica, where the Ticos outplayed Trinidad and Tobago's Soca Warriors by a 4-0 margin, matching previous victories in 1998 and 1966. But neither of those outcomes is likely to be as comprehensive. A goal on either side of half-time by Alonso Solis (43rd and 52nd) and one apiece from Harold Wallace (31st) and Rolando Fonseca (57th) did the job for the home team.
That left Rijsbergen wondering which of these players are good enough to keep their place and vowing to continue the search for hidden talent.
At times, Sunday's match looked like a training session as the Costa Ricans ran rings around bewildered T&T players, defeating them with rudimentary one-two combinations, wall passes, or simple body movements.
The Ticos were flying at times, while the Warriors always travelled in slow motion. As Costa Rica played as though on a chess board, every move taking an opponent out of position, the technical inefficiencies of his players was not lost on Rijsbergen, a former World Cup defender with Holland.
"You see how easy people run around and go in the back of some of these players that's their level. We must be careful that guys don't just use us as training partners and then they blow us off the field. That's not what we are looking for," the Dutchman said. "That's why we need to mix these players with ones in England, to make these players better. It is very tough."
The onslaught began within the opening 30 seconds when Costa Rica had the ball in the back of the T&T net from a free-kick. But, although a home player was called offside by referee Ricardo Cerdas, a pattern was set. The Soca Warriors were always chasing shadows and conceding goals from poor defending.
Blame belonged to no one player, not even goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams, although his slippery finger-tips led to the opening goal. His defenders were taken out when Costa Rican striker Fonseca allowed a pass to run, making dummies of Osei Telesford and Nigel Daniel, and allowing overlapping midfielder Wallace to collect the ball behind them in the box. Wallace, who started the play at the half-line, then made an elementary cross into the box, which the keeper tipped into his goal.
Kerry Baptiste also never came to terms with the off-the-ball runs from Ticos left midfielder Leonardo Gonzales, who cut in-field with regularity, leaving the Jabloteh midfielder always struggling to keep up.
Anticipating Fonseca would pass the ball around the back of T&T right back Seon Power, Gonzales again left Baptiste and squared a pass to Solis for an easy second goal from the centre of the penalty area.
Seeing his right flank looking like an open highway, Rijsbergen replaced Baptiste with a fighting Kwayne Wiltshire, who did marginally better.
Televison statistics showed the Soca Warriors having a paltry 40 per cent of possession, while they had not a single shot on goal in the first half.
His deceptive flair still made Kerwin Jemmott one of the few Soca Warriors playing comfortably against the Ticos. He could not match their fitness or work-rate, but because Jemmott could also produce clever flicks and little shimmies, the Costa Rican midfielders approached him carefully.
Captain Densill Theobald also showed his World Cup experience, but once the two T&T central midfielders were not involved, the ball was lost.
Theobald said the game went beyond just the difficulty of playing a good Costa Rican team.
"The result was a disgrace to us. Especially after all the work we put in, and after so much the coach put in. Beside being quick players, they played a faster brand and there was always plenty movement off the ball. We get that from Central American players these days.
"But, life goes on. We will see this as a learning experience and, hopefully, we will be able to move on from this. I hope the boys learn from watching them and playing against them. I hope they can use it to their advantage to work on their own game. Games like these can only help us along the way. Tougher opponents and opponents we can learn from will help us to grow and move from strength to strength," Theobald added.
Assistant national coach Anton Corneal said the reality shows that T&T Pro League football is not getting local players up to international level at the moment, a statement supported wholly by Rijsbergen.
"You see the level these players come from, and the big problem they
have in coming up to the next level," said Rijsbergen. "In the Digicel Cup, we played against teams of the same level, and the next step will be very difficult. It's not just the physical part, it's the speed of the game, that's the physical fitness. There's also the mental part of the game if you want to win.
Yes or no."
Rijsbergen had no choice but to pull off Baptiste, though the Jabloteh midfielder was not the only one fooled by the blind runs. Wiltshire and Daniel allowed Gonzales to ghost between them, then lay off to Solis, who ran in and slapped a low shot past Williams for the third goal.
And later, Daniel failed to pay attention to the player sneaking up behind him and had no answer when Gonzales' teasing cross reached Fonseca at the far post. A neat stab and Costa Rica had a fourth.
Striker Darryl Roberts did better than any of the T&T forwards, getting a free header but turning over Christian Baptiste's cross, then later setting up Theobald for a shot straight at keeper Jose Francisco Poras.
However, bewildered faces and bowed heads told the Soca Warriors' story as they approached the team bus. Roberts' disappointment was no less hidden as he recounted the night's happenings.
"It was tough out there. The Central American teams do a lot of running off the ball. They really killed us with that. We needed to pay attention to holding onto our man tonight and we didn't. Hopefully, we will learn from the experience."
Rijsbergen cautioned that players who want to be part of his CONCACAF Gold Cup and 2010 World Cup squads have to be prepared to do work besides just training with the national team. He said all great players have found ways to improve themselves apart from the rest.
"We will analyse these games and say to each other which of these guys are good enough to make the next level. We will also look for some new players in the US, also in any part of the world and we need to look at the Pro League. If they drop back in the same speed and the same level in the Pro League, they will probably never make the difference," Rijsbergen pointed out, probably hoping deep down that at least one or two of the current squad still prove him wrong.
|81' Hayden Tinto|
|84' Scott Sealy|
|18.||Densill Theobald (capt.)|
|46' Kwame Wiltshire|
|46'||Kwame Wiltshire for Kerry Baptiste|
|81'||Hayden Tinto for Christian Baptiste|
|84'||Scott Sealy for Kerwin Jemmott|