The dream of repeating the journey to football’s most prestigious stage in South Africa next year, came to a sad end on Saturday with the Soca Warriors being completely outplayed by Honduras in a 4-1 drubbing in San Pedro Sula. It was a most disappointing finish on the final leg of a journey which started so promisingly and up to ten minutes into the first match away to El Salvador seemed brimful of promise. Followers of the team would remember T&T leading the Salvadoreans 2-0 at one stage and having a chance to go 3-0 up, before a muffed penalty completely transformed that game and resulted in the team having to settle for a 2-2 draw.
Since then it has been a steady decline and the Warriors, despite a drawn game against Honduras and a subsequent victory over El Salvador, both at home, have not really convinced any of their followers that they possess the killer instinct to execute the quality of performance exhibited by the team that represented the country in Germany 2006. There is still a mathematical chance of getting to South Africa, of course. But even the most ardent of supporters and the most optimistic of Trinidadians/Tobagonians will have to agree that it will take pretty close to a miracle for this to materialise. We are heartened, however, by the promise made by coach Russell Latapy that the Warriors will not be sitting back and allowing other teams to run riot over them in their last three matches of the campaign. “The Soca Warriors will not go down without a fight,” Latapy said yesterday. “They have nothing to lose and will be going all out for a win.”
Latapy must use the games, starting today against the US, to lift the country’s spirits. He must let his players know about patriotism and, more importantly, about character. They must go out onto the field tonight against America and throw all caution to the wind and come up with a result to make up for all previous disappointments during this campaign. Both Latapy and his assistant, Dwight Yorke, were there in 1989 when T&T needed just one point to qualify for the finals in Italy but were beaten 1-0 by the US at today’s venue. Both wept openly. They should reflect on this when they give their pep talk to the team. Victory would not only be sweet revenge but it would also be an ideal way for this group of players to pay tribute to two great players who have paved the way for many of them to gain recognition on the international stage.
If nothing else, the decision by local football boss Jack Warner to put these two in charge of the Warriors must be considered a master stroke and the highlight of the campaign. The results may not have been what the country wanted but both Latapy and Yorke are still “youths” as far as their coaching careers are concerned and they have quite a bit to learn along the way. Given the support by Warner and the federation, the pair has the potential to emulate their own successes as players by preparing and guiding the national team to another World Cup, maybe as early as 2014. Hopefully, today will begin that process. T&T may not reach South Africa 2010, but the US, Mexico and Costa Rica, the three teams against which the Warriors will complete this campaign, must not be allowed to feel that the Soca Warriors are whipping boys and that the team does not deserve its place at such a level.