Trinidad and Tobago’s men’s senior national football team, the Soca Warriors, will regroup on Boxing Day to prepare for their Copa America Centario playoff in Panama City against Haiti in just under two months from now.
With no official FIFA international match dates for the next four months, the COPA playoffs is an assignment the Soca Warriors head coach relishes. The January 8 playoff gives T&T a chance to face possibly the likes of Brazil and Argentina and valuable matches against quality opponents.
The qualifier itself also serves as a good warm-up for T&T’s next World Cup assignments, home and away matches to St Vincent and the Grenadines on March 25 and 29, 2016. Hart thinks the Haiti clash is ideal preparation for the “Vincey Heat”.
“We have the game in January which is healthy for us,” Hart said following T&T’s goalless draw with the United States on Tuesday.
“We have the game in January, which is a tricky fixture because of course its not a FIFA date,” Hart continued.
“We intend to start (preparing) on Boxing Day and have camp and maybe get a game against a select Pro League team or something of that nature, and go into the Haiti game.”
Hart will likely have available his MLS players Joevin Jones, Daneil Cyrus, Cordell Cato and Kevan George, since their MLS season ends in December. Hart will also likely have available Sheldon Bateau, Khaleem Hyland, Radanfah Abu Bakr and Lester Peltier, who play in European leagues with winter breaks.
“With the winter break, if I could work it out with the clubs, I wouldn’t mind playing in January and then again in February,” Hart said. However, Hart may be forced to find replacements for Britain-based Andre Boucard, Justin Hoyte and skipper Kenwyne Jones, since their leagues have no winter break. Cardiff City striker Jones is asking his Soca Warriors teammates to do all possible to get the team qualified for the Copa Centario.
“Keep the flag flying,” Jones said.
“Push us on to try and to be in that competition in June. It will be good experience for us and also good experience for them, because you do not know who will be in the squad at that time.”
Jones confirmed that he is almost certain to miss the Haiti playoff, given his important role with Cardiff City, a Welsh club playing in the English Championship Division.
“Probably on that weekend I will have a club game,” Jones lamented.
“It is not a FIFA period. The (CONCACAF) organisation was a bit funny in organising the game in that period, when we had so many FIFA windows (open) to play it in.”
The Soca Warriors are vying for one of the final two spots in the prestigious Copa America Centenario, a 16-team tournament which marks the 100-year anniversary of the South American Football Championship.
Featuring four of the top-10 ranked football teams in the world--Argentina (#3), Chile (#5), Colombia (#7) and five-time World Cup champions Brazil --the event will be held from June 3-26 in venues across the United States.