Trinidad and Tobago’s men’s Under 22 footballers will attempt to break the Mexican wave at the Omnilife Stadium in Guadalajara when they tackle the hosts in their first match of the 2011 Pan American Games at 8pm (9pm T&T time) on Friday.
Mexico got off to a winning start with a 2-1 come from behind victory over Ecuador before 31,265 fans at the Omnilife Stadium on Wednesday. The T&T team witnessed the game from the stands and will be hoping to match the hosts when they tangle on the pitch.
W Connection striker Shahdon Winchester who played with the Under 17s in CONCACAF World qualifiers in Mexico a couple years ago and has faced Mexican opposition at the club level, believes T&T must remain calm and play to their strengths.
“I always look forward to competition like this from the Mexicans. We want to put in the work and do what the coach wants from us. We are like the underdogs here so we are here to give it our best and get a result. It’s a learning experience.
We lost when I was here with the Under 17s but now I’m more experienced and I think all round we are a better team. They key for us is to play our game and use our strengths. We know Mexico’s style and we’ll have to try to compete as best as we can because they will not make it easy for us at any point in the match,” Winchester told TTFF Media on the eve of the encounter.
US-based striker Cameron Roget is also expecting a grueling battle with the Mexicans but added that T&T will not be intimidated. The likes of senior team midfielder Kevin Molino, striker Jamal Gay, winger Micah Lewis,defender Mekiel Williams and captain Sheldon Bateau will have to shoulder the responsibility in what is expected to be one of the most challenging affairs the current team would have had to face.
“The mood is very good. Everyone is excited about the game. We had to wait a couple extra days with the Uruguay game being pushed back so we are really keen to get out there on the pitch. We are here to compete and try to win a medal,” Roget added.
“We will take it one game at a time. We have Mexico first and that’s really big for us. We are going to come out hard. We came here to fight and do something at the Games.”
On Wednesday afternoon coach Angus Eve put his players through a session on the playing surface which is the home field for Mexican Pro team Chivas. And he was impressed by the environment inside the Stadium which is the fourth largest in Mexico.
“We got a beautiful pitch to train on the day before and we got the main field today (Wednesday) and it was excellent. The surface is really good and the ambience in the stadium is really everything you would want for football. The vibe is really good in our camp so in that sense I think the boys have settled and anticipating the match itself.
“We need to play the games one day on and one day off which is the format for the Olympic qualifiers as well but most important we are getting to play teams of a high level. If we can mark and track with these teams and get the guys to compete and feel confident enough then that would have been the most important thing for the team over here,” Eve said.
The former T&T captain has played for T&T in Mexico in the past and would like to see his players embrace the experience.
“We have guys who have played at youth World Cups. The guys need to believe in their ability. We need to bring all our experience and be confident and relaxed. We know Mexico will need to win the game in front of their home crowd but we need to settle early and play our game as best as we can,” Eve added.
The Omnilife stadium has a seating capacity of 49,850. The first public football match at the stadium which has an artificial surface, was a friendly between Guadalajara and Manchester United on July 30 2010.
Guadalajara won the game 3–2, with the first goal at the stadium scored by Javier "Chicharito" Hernández playing for Guadalajara. Hernández played the entire first half for Guadalajara and switched sides to Manchester United in the second half, symbolically sealing his transfer contract signed in March 2010.