Trinidad and Tobago’s National Under 20 footballers will need to draw or at least avoid a defeat by a three goal margin when they face Mexico on Friday to secure a quarter final spot in the CONCACAF Final Round after being made to settle for a 0-0 draw with Cuba in Guatemala City on Wednesday night.
T&T would have been through to the “quarters” had they won the game but they made things difficult for themselves after failing to find the net.
Mexico toppled Cuba 3-0 on Monday and are already through to the next stage and head coach Zoran Vranes knows the importance of the encounter and so too his captain Sheldon Bateau who was one of the more productive players for T&T on Wednesday night.
“We cannot lose on Friday and I expect our performance will be better than tonight,” Bateau told TTFF Media. “We did not take our chances and maybe we took a little long to settle.
But now that the first game is out of the way, we know what is in front of us and what we need to do to get into the next round.
You can expect all the players to give their best against Mexico because we know they are considered the giants and we must try to pull off the best result for us at this stage of the tournament.”
On Wednesday night, despite a relatively dull first half in terms of goal mouth action, T&T had the first good look of goal in the 7th minute when Joe Public midfielder Marcus Joseph dragged a left footer wide of the right post.
And Bateau wasn’t afraid to fire from long range, doing so in the 19th minute but it was not enough to test the Cuban custodian. He had another effort moments later which also missed the target.
Cuba were more fluent and threaded their passes well for most of the half but T&T remained organized for large periods and never allowed the Cubans to dominate.
The Cubans though almost went ahead in the 38th minute when Francisco Salazar powered his effort over bar from just outside the box and seconds later Dario Suarez’s shot was stopped by the outstretched left leg of goalkeeper Stefan Berkeley who gave tidy performance in goal for T&T on the night.
Following the half time break, T&T again went closest to breaking the deadlock when Johan Peltier’s right footed effort drifted over bar from the top of box.
Cuba continued to keep the pressure on and forced Berkeley into making another good stop when Yaudel Lahera shot low and the ‘keeper was forced to claim on the second attempt.
Vranes introduced Shahdon Winchester into the attack as T&T went in desperate search for scoring opportunities and a go ahead goal.
The W Connection forward had two good opportunities, the first being shot which came across the goal from the right and went past the far post and then on 82 minutes, following a decent cross from the right by Kenaz Williams, Winchester got to the ball before two defenders but could only direct his effort over bar from deep inside the box on the first post.
Bateau also saw his powerful free kick from just atop the box past inches over bar. There were some anxious moments for both teams in the closing minutes but no goals to show for it.
Vranes commented: “It was not the result we hoped for because of course we were playing for a win but okay it’s one point for us and for them and now it’s in our hands in the next game against Mexico.
We have seen Mexico play already and we know what to expect from them. I will not say too much more other than we need a good result on Friday night to advance in the tournament.”