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Fri, Feb

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The Trinidad and Tobago "Warriors" go into Saturday's World Cup play-off against Bahrain needing a victory to ease the anxiety of a nation and put them in sight of Germany 2006.


But playing against a country from far away in the Middle East-which they have never faced before so have little knowledge of the players, conditions and abilities-may be the national team's biggest handicap.

Their task is even more challenging as they host the first leg, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, and then must make the long journey to Bahrain to play the clincher four days later at the National Stadium in Manama.

Sport Express spoke to some figures associated with national football to get their views on what is needed by the Warriors for the next two matches to capture a long-awaited berth at the World Cup, a feat Trinidad and Tobago have gone agonisingly close to accomplishing in the past, falling, or being tripped, at the final hurdle, for the 1974 and 1990 tournaments.

FORMER NATIONAL GOALKEEPER AND T&TFF TECHNICAL DIRECTOR LINCOLN "TIGER" PHILLIPS
"Everything must be positive. Forget about the negative things, with (David) Nakhid and everything. Every person must have only one thing on their mind, and that is Saturday. One day and one game, and then we go. Don't even think about Germany. This is a moment we must manage and manage properly. The players will do (their part). But on the outside, we the spectators, the public, the sponsors, the press, must not get too crazy. We must take things in stride. In '89 we did not manage the moment properly, and I think we have the people to do it now.

"It's going to be two bruising games, my friend. It's going to be two hard-fought games...

"...Well we have to win, and we have to win by a convincing margin. The coach knows this, the players know this, because you need to get that home advantage and the more goals you score at home...because when we go away they will have a great home advantage over us, and it's better to play for a tie when we go there than to have to win by two clear goals. So we have to go on the attack and try to win without conceding a goal. If we can do that, then we can go to Bahrain in the driver's seat.

"The head coach is a wise coach. He has been stuck in like this before and he will make the right decision, without getting overawed. He relishes when it gets tough."

FORMER NATIONAL TEAM MANAGER RICHARD BRATHWAITE
"I said it since last year...I maintain that the team will qualify.

"I think that the Bahrain game will not be an easy game, but I think Trinidad and Tobago is the better team, will be more technically-gifted and more experienced players.

"A lot will depend on Dwight Yorke and Russell (Latapy), particularly in a game of this nature, which is really the final hurdle. The atmosphere is going to be really electric because it is such an important game and therefore the more experienced players who have been through this before will play a crucial role.

"But I expect a victory and I expect that we will be in Germany next year."

W CONNECTION AND FORMER SENIOR NATIONAL COACH STUART CHARLES-FEVRIER
"Well, I think the chances are good. Because playing at home in the first leg of the competition and the team had shown they are capable of winning in the World Cup campaign thus far.

"Personally, I would prefer them to play away first. But that doesn't mean that even though they play at home first they cannot qualify. I think it all boils down to making sure that they don't make the same mistakes throughout the two games. Once they can keep their concentration and don't make silly mistakes, I think it is quite possible they can advance."

FORMER T&T STRIKE SQUAD SKIPPER CLAYTON MORRIS
"Personally, l think that the players need to come up with up a big performance (in Saturday's game). The difference in this game and in the last game is we mustn't allow Bahrain to score. Mexico scored on us in the last game. The game was for points, but this game is more on the goals.

"It is important that you don't let any goals in at home. As well as we're going in attack, you don't want to preoccupy yourself in defence, but if you organise yourself in attack, they will be organised to defend.

"We are at home and want to attack as we want to score, but unlike when we played Mexico we went forward, we left some space in the back and we conceded a goal.

"And it's important for us as much to stick to our game plan. It's important when the coach gives the instruction that the players follow it as much as possible.

"...When I used to be out there and the coach gave the instruction, you were confident that you can go out there and perform. It's in that ten or 15 minutes of the game you can say 'hey, the players are performing, and following the instructions well'. The first ten to 15 minutes should be important in the game.

"You get that sense where the game can go, what the team is capable of doing and how your team is withstanding the pressure and how they carry out their instructions.

"I'm very optimistic we can pull it off, but I don't want to be like the people who figure that we are already in Germany. We still have 180 minutes to play and that is a very long time."

FORMER NATIONAL U-17 AND ST ANTHONY'S "TIGERS" COACH NIGEL GROVESNOR
Very good chance and we have to take advantage of it at home. But the result shouldn't be a 1-0, 2-0 or even 3-0, it must be 4-0 or 5-0. And we must not let them score, because we don't know what we're expecting over there.

"We know what we have, what we're going into (on Saturday at home), so once we know what we have here, we must take advantage of it.

"The only thing is, they come down here and will have a little more time to acclimatise. So we have to win and win big."

And can they reach the World Cup?

"...Definite, definite! There is no two ways about it. We have not reached so far just to give it away just so. We have learnt from '89, and we have to win now."