SHAKING HANDS: President George Maxwell Richards shakes the hand of Trinidad and Tobago team coach Russell Latapy prior to Saturday's game against Costa Rica at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet, Tobago.The Warriors went under to Costa Rica in the World Cup qualifier. ...Author: SUREASH CHOLAIRIGHT DIRECTION

New Trinidad and Tobago head coach Russell Latapy received an ovation from some journalists when he entered Saturday night's post-game press conference, while Costa Rican coach Rodrigo Kenton admitted the "Ticos" were stunned early by the energy of the "Soca Warriors".
The final 2010 World Cup qualifying result read 3-2 in favour of Costa Rica at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet, but Latapy insisted the Warriors were on the rise.

"The players did what was asked of them," said Latapy. "They played with a lot of passion and movement. If I can get my team to play like that (consistently) I think the Trinidad and Tobago public would be very happy."

Costa Rica top the CONCACAF standings at present and, on Saturday, became the first team in the final round to win away from home. But Kenton, who addressed the media in English, revealed that he had some nervous moments at the sidelines-particularly in the first half.

"I never thought Trinidad and Tobago would be so aggressive," said Kenton. "They had a good first half."

The home team used the height and strength of Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones to good effect in the first half, while Joe Public winger Hayden Tinto, who made his starting debut for the senior team, also threatened.

The Warriors attacked almost exclusively down the right flank through Tinto and goal scorer Carlos Edwards, who was outstanding at right back, while United Petrotrin midfielder Trent Noel-another World Cup debutant-was asked to tuck inside, on the other side, to help Silvio Spann and captain Dwight Yorke protect the middle of the park.

The teams were tied at 1-1 at the interval.

"I had information that their left side was strong," said Latapy, who had assistant coach Zoran Vranes scout Costa Rica's 3-1 win over the United States last week, "and we tried to strengthen our right side I think it went well for a long time."

Kenton was also impressed although both coaches differed in their assessment of Tinto. The Costa Rican boss was surprised the pint-sized dribbler did not emerge for the second half.

"The number 10 (Tinto) did very well," said Kenton, "and I thought the number 11 (Edwards) was a very interesting player."

Tinto's replacement, Collin Samuel, got on the score sheet and Latapy did not feel he made a premature substitution.

"(Tinto) is one of the players for the future," said Latapy. "He did well in training and he did well to get into the areas we wanted him to (on Saturday). But he was a bit nervous and his final ball wasn't good. So we brought on some experience."

Kenton felt certain Costa Rica would win after they drew level in the first half and an error by veteran defender Dennis Lawrence allowed 20-year-old Costa Rican rising star, Celso Borges, to shoot the visitors ahead in the 52nd minute.

"After we tied, I saw Trinidad and Tobago drop their resistance a little bit," said Costa Rica's coach. "I knew they couldn't keep up with that intensity throughout the 90 minutes."

Latapy replaced midfielder Silvio Spann with striker Cornell Glen in the 61st minute and, two minutes later, Glen was involved in the equaliser, which Samuel rammed home despite a touch from Costa Rican goalkeeper Keilor Navas.

"This is a game we wanted to win," said Latapy, as he explained the change. "We were down at the time so we wanted to open up the game."

But the switch from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 had a disastrous effect on the Warriors' rearguard.

"The desperation of Trinidad and Tobago gave us a lot of room," said Kenton. "I put in a few players to take advantage of the space they left behind."

Borges got the winner in the 69th minute as Costa Rica virtually walked the ball into the back of the net.

Latapy, who omitted Belgium-based midfielder Khaleem Hyland for a combination of tactical and personal reasons, introduced the workmanlike Chris Birchall for the final 24 minutes but, by then, the Warriors were resorting to long, fruitless balls towards Jones.

T&T's forwards have now gone four matches and close to seven months without a World Cup qualifying goal since Jones' strike against Cuba last November.

"You work on things to create chances but that is the game of football," said Latapy. "Sometimes you get chances and score a hat-trick and sometimes you get ten (chances) and score none."

Trinidad and Tobago appeared to run out of steam in the closing minutes but local fans are not used to their team starting so positively and Latapy hopes to keep the momentum.

"It gives me hope we are moving in the right direction," said Latapy.
Latapy makes encouraging start.
...but Warriors need fresh blood.

Russell Latapy had his chin in hand for the final 15 minutes of Trinidad and Tobago's 3-2 World Cup qualifying loss on Saturday at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet. Perhaps he was protecting his neck.

An encouraging and enjoyable opening from the "Soca Warriors" had turned into a game of backs and forwards as the final whistle loomed and the hosts launched the ball aimlessly forward in the vain hope that giant Sunderland striker, Kenwyne Jones, could make magic from scraps.

Thirty-seven-year-old team captain and midfielder general, Dwight Yorke, was a spent force and nowhere to be seen. At the back, 33-year-old Marvin Andrews could barely muster the power to propel his punts beyond the halfway line.

Costa Rica were clearly rattled at the start but, as the second half progressed, the growing composure of the "Ticos" had to do with more than just tactics and technique.

"Trinidad and Tobago had a good first half," said Costa Rica coach Rodrigo Kenton, "but I knew they couldn't keep up with that intensity throughout the 90 minutes."

Maybe Kenton had taken a glance at the Warriors' birthdates.

Richard, a Scarborough-based 42-year-old sidewalk salesman, pointed to the advanced ages of T&T's football heroes, two days before Tobago's historic World Cup fixture, and he must have nodded knowingly on Saturday.

"Our team is ancient and that means we don't have a good youth programme," Richard told the Express last Friday. "We are running on fumes."

For the second time in the final CONCACAF qualifying round, the Warriors lacked the legs to complete a promising start.

Away to El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago let a two-goal advantage slip in the final ten minutes. If the Warriors had held on, they would have four points now and third place.

Instead, they are bottom from the Confederation's six teams and need home wins against El Salvador, Mexico and the United States as well as at least one road triumph over Mexico, Honduras or Costa Rica to grab fourth spot and a play-off berth against a South American nation.

Tactically, Latapy held his own for much of Saturday's outing.

For once, Jones received the type of early service that has been his staple diet in the English Premiership. Yorke had two midfield minders, which allowed him to effectively focus more on distribution and scheming, while Avery John made the left channel as hospitable as Guantanamo Bay and Carlos Edwards did not put a foot wrong at right back.

Even surprise pick, Hayden Tinto, did enough to justify his inclusion-at least, in theory-while Latapy's first change, Collin Samuel, was a qualified success.

But, after softening the challenger, it was the Warriors who were too weak to deliver the telling blow. Costa Rica are top dogs in CONCACAF at present and it is no shame to fall at their feet. Yet, as against El Salvador, the Warriors might have done better.

Latapy pointed to his strikers' inability to convert half-chances and it is now four World Cup qualifying games since Trinidad and Tobago got a goal from a frontman. But there is a bigger question for the young coach.

Where can Latapy find the required energy to improve his squad without losing too much of the poise offered by his veterans?

It would be foolish to pretend there is an easy answer to his dilemma. Latapy's predecessor, Francisco Maturana, persevered with the 24-year-old Aklie Edwards at left back, for instance, but he never came close to offering the protection of the limited but solid John.

Change for the heck of it will not help. Yet, surely the balance was off on Saturday.

Eight of Trinidad and Tobago's starting XI were 30 and over while the average age of the hosts stood at a shade under 31. In contrast, Costa Rica had just two players over 30 years old and their median was a virile 25.

Fresh-faced squads are a global trend in football, which has become increasingly athletic in the past decade.

The average age of Spanish and European champions Barcelona is just over 26. Italian conquerors Inter Milan also have an average age below 27, while Manchester United's tally stands at 27.2.

In Latapy's first team list, the 40-year-old icon suggested that he is not afraid to be adventurous or ruthless. He omitted his former Falkirk and 2006 World Cup teammate Densill Theobald and was not particularly interested in testing the claims of Khaleem Hyland and Chris Birchall, who both promised a goal before the weekend encounter.

Tinto, at 23 and without a national start, was a brave gamble that might have paid off handsomely if the pint-sized player kept his feet and nerve when behind the Costa Rican defence.

But Latapy must speculate again soon. His central midfield trio of Silvio Spann, Trent Noel and Yorke, despite a splendid start, is short on match fitness. At the back, either Lawrence or Andrews might flourish alongside a mean, spritely colt but there may be too many years between them for a pairing.

As in El Salvador, the Warriors gave reason for optimism to anxious supporters. But, once more, they were running on fumes at the death.

After Wednesday's torturous excursion to Mexico City-only Costa Rica have ever won at the Azteca Stadium, a statistic that owes more to medical science than football skill-Trinidad and Tobago must ensure that our meek finishes at Bacolet and San Salvador will not be repeated.

It is a challenge that Latapy, one of Trinidad and Tobago's most intelligent players, should relish.