The stage is set for Trinidad and Tobago’s redemption when it comes to engaging in battle with Cuba on the football field as this country’s senior men’s team will have it all to do on Sunday from 6pm at the Dwight Yorke Stadium if they are to maintain their hopes of qualifying for the 2012 Caribbean Cup Finals and the CONCACAF Gold Cup next year.
The “Soca Warriors” on four points, will be keeping a close watch on Sunday’s opening match between Suriname and St Vincent/Grenadines (two points) as a victory for St Vincent will see T&T needing a win to guarantee progress to the next stage or at least a draw and a better goal difference. A draw in the early encounter will make life easier for T&T against the Cubans who have four points also.
But Cuba have proven to be a nemesis for T&T in the Regional tournament, beating the Hannibal Najjar coached team 3-1 in 2003, again winning 2-1 in the 2005 Digicel Cup and then getting the better of T&T in the Finals in Martinique back in 2010 under Russell Latapy. T&T have an overall record of eleven wins to Cuba’s three in all senior international competition and friendly matches.
Instrumental midfielder Densill Theobald, who was rock solid in Friday’s 3-0 win, believes his team can pull it off. He said T&T’s 1-0 win over Bahrain on November 16th back in 2005 was also on his mind.
“I was aware of it. It’s a significant date in our history. There was no way I would have slept comfortably if lost to Suriname today,” Theobald told TTFF Media after the match which was witnessed by Sports Minister Anil Roberts, TOP Leader Ashworth Jack and TTFF President Raymond Tim Kee.
“We have been working very hard as a team and I think we have been improving every game. On Sunday our aim is to win the match but we know it’s not going to be easy. Once we do our part, everything else is in God’s hands,” Theobald added.
“This current squad is yet to play to its fullest potential. We’ve not played pretty and we’ve made mistakes. We know that come Sunday it’s now or never for us. We need to advance because if we don’t make it to the Gold Cup, I know it’s going to be an even harder road back to some form of success for us.
Captain Jan Michael Williams had led his team well thus far, urging his teammates to pull out all the stops in this campaign.
“I think by now every player knows that we have to dig deeper than ever. The challenge for this squad has been greater than some of the other national teams in recent past. We have had a lot of struggles and I think this has made the boys stronger but in saying that we have to put out the effort on the pitch and grind out results, especially on Sunday,” Williams added.
Head coach Hutson Charles described the performance by defender Aubrey David as “Excellent” on Friday. And he wants the rest of the team to take pattern from the Guyana-born player.
“If we can have all the guys on the same page, putting in the same kind of effort and keeping their heads on then we definitely can bring this one home and continue to push on for the rest of the tournament.
This team has ability. Yes some of them are new to the international stage but they must believe in their abilities and demonstrate that on the field of play. That’s all we are asking of them,” Charles said.
David was buzzing after scoring his first international goal in his maiden full competitive appearance for T&T.
“First of all I am thankful to God for this opportunity. He is in charge and we got this victory after putting in the work with his guidance. I felt good out there. I was comfortable because I’ve worn the national shirt before and I just gave my best out there tonight,” David said.
“Of course I would have loved to have scored for the country of by birth but this is how it turned out and I’m equally grateful to be playing a role in Trinidad and Tobago’s football. Our ambition is to qualify for the Finals and go on to restore some pride and respect in our football.”
Sunday’s game kicks off at 6pm with Suriname facing St Vincent from 4pm. The top two teams will advance to next month’s Caribbean Cup Finals in Antigua.