Faith in Hart
THE captain of the Trinidad and Tobago senior men’s national football team, Jan-Michael Williams is eagerly looking forward to the World Cup qualifying campaign. And he has also endorsed head coach Stephen Hart as the man to take Trinidad and Tobago to the 2018 tournament to be played in Russia.
“Once we don’t play on the 19th (November) I good,” said Williams, alluding to the famous November 19, 1989 clash between the two countries when Paul Caliguri’s lone goal gave the Americans a 1-0 win, when T&T’s “Strike Squad” needed just a draw to qualify for the Italia 1990 World Cup.
T&T begin 2018 World Cup qualification in November with two matches, the first on November 13 away to the winners of a tie between Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda before they host the USA in Port of Spain on November 17.
Seeded as one of the top six teams in CONCACAF when the draw was made, T&T got a straight bye into the fourth (semi-final) round of CONCACAF qualifying along with the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Honduras.
The fourth round will see 12 teams--six seeded and six qualifiers--vie for six places in the final round of qualification from which the top three automatically go to the Russian World Cup, while the fourth-placed team enters an inter-continental playoff for another World Cup spot.
Williams, the Central FC goalkeeper, thinks Hart is the man who can carry the Soca Warriors to their second World Cup. A month ago, Hart led the team to a quarter-final spot at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States when they beat Guatemala (3-1) and Cuba (2-0) and drew with Mexico (4-4) and Panama (1-1) before going out 6-5 on spot-kicks to the Panamanians at the quarter-final stage.
Hart has qualified T&T for successive quarter-finals of the Gold Cup, the CONCACAF region’s top tournament for national teams.
“The results are there to be seen,” Williams said. “In 2013 when Stephen Hart came aboard, it was the first time since 2000 we qualified for the knockout round of the Gold Cup. Since then, the progress has been there for everybody to see.”
Williams described Hart as a perfectionist, but also a players’ coach.
“What he has that a lot of (local) coaches didn’t have in the past, is that he has international experience having coached the Canadian national team, and he was born and bred in Trinidad, so he knows the culture of the people of Trinidad and Tobago and the players.”
T&T 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFYING SCHEDULE:
Nov 13, 2015 – Guatemala/Antigua & Barbuda v Trinidad & Tobago
Nov 17, 2015 - Trinidad & Tobago v United States
Mar 25, 2016 – Aruba/St Vincent & Grenadines v Trinidad & Tobago
Mar 29, 2016 - Trinidad & Tobago v Aruba/St Vincent & Grenadines
Sept 2, 2016 – Trinidad & Tobago v Guatemala/Antigua & Barbuda
Sept 6, 2016 2016 - USA v Trinidad & Tobago