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Sun, Dec

While Trinidad did not perform up to its usual elegant or spectacular form, they were still capable of riding their luck pass Cayman for a 3-0 victory on Sunday at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.

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HAVING stumbled on the turn into the final straight, Trinidad and Tobago has now found itself having to play catch-up in a race in which really only the top three get the prize - a place in the World Cup.

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We are just a few weeks away from Trinidad and Tobago's opening final round World Cup-qualifying game – so it is not surprising that concerns over the national team's preparations have been greatly magnified, they should be. It has been previously explained in this column that this final group is likely to be one of the toughest ever in the history of the Football Confederation. All three representatives at the 1998 World Cup – Mexico, the USA and Jamaica – are there, along with Central American powerhouses, Costa Rica and Honduras. Trinidad and Tobago is faced with the task of having to fight hard in every single game and will need all of its top players, from start to finish, the widespread anxiety. Many inquiries have been raised as regards the quality of the opposition that has been lined up for Trinidad and Tobago in the coming weeks. As it is, many were not pleased with the fact that the national team kicked off the year with two friendlies against Grenada, a team that was thrashed 7-0 at the 1999 Copa Caribe tournament. This while Jamaica was playing Bolivia and Bulgaria (both of which made World Cup appearances in the 1990s), the USA was entertaining China and Colombia and Mexico was listing Colombia and Argentina among opponents played since December. Ian Porterfield's admission, at last week's new conference, that without our top performers, "we are not good enough as group of players…to go and play big teams…we are not at that level," confirmed a point that had been made, repeatedly, in this column in the past – that Trinidad and Tobago's second best are way below the level of its best. This was proven in the qualifying games against the Netherlands Antilles, the Dominican Republic and Panama, when performances were simply not up to the level displayed in other games, like those at home to Mexico and Canada. Those were the matches in which Russell Latapy made a difference and this is why he, Dwight Yorke, Stern John, Anthony Rougier and Angus Eve will continue to be relied upon, while the likes of Kerwyn Jemmott, Nigel Pierre, Hector Sam and Carlos Edwards will have to wait another year for the opportunity to truly establish themselves.

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ONE of the most striking things about last week Wednesday's World Cup qualifying match in Kingston (other than the result, of course!) has been the calm, cool, collected reaction to the outcome.

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JUST as Trinidad and Tobago benefited from the presence of Panama in its semi-final round World Cup-qualifying group, it will be in this country’s best interest if Guatemala manages to eclipse Costa Rica in its play-off match, and makes it to the final round.

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