Magic was in the air yesterday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. And if the performance put on by the ‘Little Magician’ Russell Latapy is an indication of things to come on Saturday, then T&T could well cast a spell on the visiting Guatemala team and come away with the three points that are so vital on the road to the World Cup Finals in Germany next year.
Showing little signs of wear and tear on his 37-year-old body and the effects of the 30-plus degree sunny conditions, the former national captain displayed flashes off his old brilliance during the training session—his second with the Warriors.
It was the Warriors third session at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, ahead of the CONCACAF World Cup 2006 qualifier versus Guatemala on Saturday at the same venue from 4.30pm
Also in attendance were team captain Dwight Yorke, Carlos Edwards, Atiba Charles, Ian Cox, Avery John, Christopher Birchall, Brent Sancho, Marvin Andrews, Shaka Hislop, Anton Pierre, Silvio Spann, Glenton Wolfe, Densil Theobald, Scott Sealy, Aurtis Whitley, Cyd Gray, Kelvin Jack and Lebanon-based scout David Nakhid who also participated.
Jason Scotland, a late call-up for the injured Kenwyne Jones and Dennis Lawrence who will be illegible for the Costa Rica match on September 7, were expected to arrive last night.
Watched by a small group of spectators, Latapy settled in quickly during the first hour of training and looked comfortable on the ball while participating in a 30-minute half-field ball exercise under the watchful eyes of coach Leo Beenhakker and his two assistants.
The presence of the former FC Porto and Rangers midfielder seemed to have already injected new life into the players, who for the first time in the three sessions had coach Beenhakker nodding his head in approval.
On Tuesday, with only nine players available then, Beenhakker was forced to stop the session on numerous occasions to explain thoroughly what he wanted done on the field. He also asked for more urgency.
But with the experienced core of players coming in from Europe led by Latapy, team captain Dwight Yorke, Stern John, Birchall, Hislop and Jack all present, the national coach looked relaxed.
Latapy, Yorke, Stern John, Andrews, Theobald, Aurtis Whitley, Spann and Avery John were put on one team and given orders to attack with confidence and pace, against Jack and company.
The “Little Magician” known to be a master of that craft, wrong-footed the opposing defenders and on one occasion, left defender Ian Cox of Gillingham for dead, with one of his “Sugar Ray Leonard” body fakes, which resulted in the defender tripping him up.
Later on, Latapy in a flash-back to his days with the national team, worked a quick one-two inside the 18-yard box with close pal Dwight Yorke.
With little time to find the target, the “Little Magician” then composed himself and chipped the ball over the head of lanky T&T goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, which quickly drew applause from the few who had braved the steamy conditions to get a glimpse of the midfield wizard.
Despite his brilliance, coach Beenhakker had hinted that Latapy will have to prove himself for his pick in the final squad. But following yesterday’s session, Beenhakker should have little difficulty in making his decision.
Following the session, Beenhakker had one injury concern, that of right winger Carlos Edwards.
Edwards, who missed the Concacaf Gold Cup Finals and USA qualifier due to injury, picked up a slight knock on his right foot in a tackle with Whitley and had to sit out the remainder of the session.
But it is not said to be a serious injury and he was expected to train in the afternoon session.
Today the Warriors will resume training from 9.30 am followed by an afternoon session from 5.30 pm.
However only the afternoon session will be open to the media.
Guatemala meanwhile arrived in T&T today, but have not scheduled any training session until tomorrow.