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Zoran Vranes and Russell LatapyNo serious preparation matches before Costa Rica

David Muhammad, manager of the Soca Warriors squad, has backed the decision by national coach, Russell Latapy, not to play any serious competitive or international warm-up matches before next Saturday’s contest against Costa Rica in Tobago.
It’s a crucial match for the Soca Warriors in its 2010 South Africa World Cup Concacaf Qualifying campaign. Latapy who took over the national team on April 8, after Colombian Francisco Maturana resigned, has opted not to play any friendlies ahead of the match.

In the past, playing warm-up matches to help the team gel was a major problem for the T&T Football Federation as most of the European-based players join the team only five days before matches due to Fifa stipulations. “Firstly, there are other methods of preparation which Latapy prefers to use to get the team ready, and it was his decision in that he did not think it was necessary. “At the same time, I’m not saying that playing a few matches would not have been good and beneficial to the team, but this is Latapy’s first match in charge and he’s bringing his own methods and tactical awareness to the team and we have to appreciate it.”

Muhammad added, “We could arrange a number of matches and the coach might still not get what he wants out of them. “Then, at the same time, he also has the chance to see all his players on a regular basis in 11 vs 11 situations to make his assessments.” However, with the European season completed and most of the players back in T&T since the middle of May, it was felt that at least two proper warm-up matches against worthy opposition should have been organised for the team ahead of the qualifiers with Costa Rica and Mexico but this has not been done. T&T’s last competitive match was on April 1 when it suffered a humiliating 3-0 loss to the USA in Nashville, Tennessee in a Concacaf World Cup Qualifier.

On the other hand, when the Costa Ricans take on T&T on June 6, it will be on the back of two international matches, a 1-1 draw with Venezuela in a friendly on May 13, and a World Cup qualifier versus USA on June 3 in San Jose. Two teams who are preparing for the Concacaf Gold Cup, Jamaica and Haiti played to a 2-2 draw on the weekend, while El Salvador, bottom of the Concacaf Final Round with T&T on two points each, whipped Ecuador 3-1 on Wednesday as they prepare to host Mexico on June 6. Commenting on the approach and decision not to engage in any international matches, Muhammad said, “ Warm-up matches are not the only way you can get a team prepared for qualifiers. For yesterday’s session at Bacolet, former Manchester United star and Soca Warriors captain, Dwight Yorke, joined the local squad.

On Thursday the 37-year-old Yorke, one of seven players released by Sunderland, joined the squad after his contract came to an end. Fellow T&T players Carlos Edwards and Kenwyne Jones, who is considering a move to Tottenham Hotspur, were among the players retained by the club. Edwards returned home on Thursday and linked up with the team in Tobago while Jones, DC United left back Avery John and San Jose Earthquake striker Cornell Glen are scheduled to arrive tomorrow. Striker Stern John left for the USA on Thursday for treatment to a back injury which may see him miss four weeks of action, and is out of the matches against Costa Rica and Mexico.