T&T’s senior footballers will look forward to their 11th international match of the year when they face off with host nation Saudi Arabia in the third place playoff at the OSN Cup in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Monday.
T&T have played six friendly internationals for the year and is likely to have at least two further matches before the close of 2013. The figure is considerably good considering the lack of quality matches for the Soca Warriors for the past six years.
T&T has not had the luxury of playing more than ten games per year outside of World Cup qualifying matches of Caribbean Cup encounters in recent years. “It’s important for us to have as many games that we possibly can,” TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee said on the eve of his arrival in Riyadh to witness T&T’s match against Saudi Arabia.
“This is all in preparation for our 2018 campaign but what it does is provide our players with an opportunity to gain as much experience as possible and we are able to develop or build new relationships with countries within and outside of the Concacaf region.
“I was particularly impressed with the way the team came from three goals down to level the score. That kind of drive and determination is what we are trying to develop. Of course we want to win games but we have to start by playing as regularly as we can, once we can afford to engage in these outings.”
Some members of the T&T squad travelled for close to 30 hours before arriving in Riyadh, just over a day before the match against United Arab Emirates which T&T lost 7-6 on penalty kicks after rallying to come back from three goals to level it in the final minute on Thursday.
Head coach Stephen Hart believes the experience will add some character to the T&T squad which will face Saudi Arabia for the fourth time ever after the homeside lost 1-0 to New Zealand on Thursday.
“It’s all part of the experience of developing yourself as a player for international football, part of the total development of a national team.
We knew it was going to be difficult but we are prepared to do more than just sitting at home and playing games against Caribbean opponents or other teams from the region. This is the journey we have to set out on if we are to think of future World Cup qualifications or proper representation on the international stage,” he added.
T&T forward Willis Plaza, meanwhile, said he was not prepared to simply fly off to Riyadh without making a worthy contribution to the T&T team. “I was missing out on the recent games. I didn’t make the Gold Cup trip but coming to the middle east to play was important for me because it was an opportunity to do something and to play under the new head coach,” said Plaza.
“Even before he told me to warm up, I knew I wanted to go on and make a contribution. When the ball came over from Lester (Peltier), all I could see was goal and I put the ball exactly where I wanted it to go.”
“I think we will be ready for the next match on Monday even more now. The place is very hot in the daytime and the night but we know what it’s like to play here now and I believe we will be able to give an even better showing against Saudi Arabia,” added the Vietnam-based player, who is scheduled to return to T&T next week following the end of his season with Song Lam Nghe An.