Soca Warriors coach, Russell Latapy is of a strong belief that T&T can win the Digicel Caribbean Championship with an all-local team. Latapy was speaking before a training session at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya yesterday as he prepares his locally-based professional team for a friendly international at the same venue against Antigua and Barbuda tomorrow night.
The Soca Warriors will also face Jamaica on August 11 as they look ahead to this year’s Digicel Caribbean Championship final which will take place in November in Martinique. T&T will join the qualifying series for the tournament in the Second Round.
T&T, perennial kings of the regional tournament failed to qualify for the last Digicel Cup Finals in Jamaica (2008) under Colombian, Francisco Maturana and then the World Cup Finals.
Reflecting on T&T’s failure to reach the finals in Jamaica Latapy said, “It was disappointing not getting to the Gold Cup last time out. It’s a tournament we should not be missing as far as Caribbean teams go.
“We’re supposed to be the top team along with Jamaica in the region and we just have to keep proving that over and over again. “On paper, the final of the Digicel Cup is supposed to be T&T against Jamaica.
I have not seen Jamaica in a very long time and I wanted to have a look at them and see exactly where they are and I suppose they want to have a look at us as well. “It’s always very interesting when T&T plays Jamaica. Its another game of top level football that would take this young team a bit further in preparations.
Asked if he was happy with the players in the national team Latapy said, “In the professional league the players who have been performing well are the ones who are in the squad.
“We still have a lot of foreign based players who we can also call on as well. But I think this squad is good enough to win the Digicel title and we just have to go out there and prove it.
Asked if the European-based players or others made themselves available for the tournament if they will be selected Latapy replied, “I will never refuse any player who wants to play for his country.
“My job and responsibility is to provide the strongest team and if some of these foreign based players fit into that category, then yes I will welcome them with open arms.
“Again though, I have played professional football myself and I know the difficulties in asking players to come from Europe to play in this competition. I also think its a competition we should win with local players.
But if we have some of the players competing in the MLS who are prepared to come back I will be happy to have them. Looking ahead to the match tomorrow Latapy said, “T&T will be starting the tournament (Digicel Caribbean Champions) as favourites so I just wanted to see how the players will deal with the situation as being favourites.
“Wednesday’s match against Antigua and Barbuda is preparation for the Digicel Caribbean Championships in October and November. “We needed to play some Caribbean opponents and its just to measure exactly where we are and what we need to work on.