It has been labelled the “Group of Death” of the Digicel Caribbean Cup qualifying tournament but coach Russell Latapy has all intention of T&T emerging the top team in Group F with the support of local fans.
He made this clear at the launch of Second Round of the tournament which is being hosted here. It starts this afternoon at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella.
The “Soca Warriors” will feature in the second match of a double-header against St Vincent and the Grenadines, from 7.30 pm. The opening encounter will be between Haiti and Guyana at 5 pm.
From the four-team tournament, the top two will qualify for the eight-team Finals in Martinique from November 26 - December 5. “I am looking on to Martinique, for us to play in the Finals.
We are looking for home advantage so I am asking fans to give full support to the team,” said Latapy, in his traditional cool and collective manner.
The second round of the Digicel Cup was previously slated to kick off at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo but was switched to the Marabella venue to facilitate a entertainment event.
Latapy is not making the change the venue an issue despite having conducted much of his practice sessions at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. “My job is to get the players focused on playing no matter where the venue is,” said Latapy. “We are satisfied with the surface and expect decent playing conditions.
Anyway, both teams will be playing at the same venue.” St Vincent and the Grenadines coach Samuel Carrington also anticipates a good showing from his young team.
“It is going to be a good competition,” said Carrington “We have a young group and will have seven starters about 20 years old. We will be looking to use this opportunity to make a statement for ourselves.”
Latapy has also stuck with a youthful team which includes overseas quartet of Puerto Rico Islanders’ Kendall Jagdeosingh, his clubmate Keon Daniel, DC United’s Julius James and Yohance Marshall of LA Galaxy.
“We got rid of the older heads because I am looking towards the future and for this we must look to the young players,” said Latapy. “The general public do not think our last couple of results as being good but we are playing closer to the way that I want the team to be playing.”
Already qualifying for the Finals are the host (Martinique), defending champion Jamaica, Grenada and Guadeloupe. Latapy went on to stress though, that the most important factor in tonight’s match is that the team gets home support. “Fans come out and give support.”
Soca Warriors Squad
Goalkeepers: Jan-Michael Williams, Marvin Phillip.
Defenders: Julius James, Yohance Marshall, Kern Cupid, Daneil Cyrus, Joevin Jones.
Midfielders: Clyde Leon, Trent Noel, Densill Theobald, Hughtun Hector, Keon Daniel, Hayden Tinto, Anthony Wolfe, Lester Peltier, Kendall Jagdeosingh.
Forwards: Devon Jorsling, Jamal Gay, Kerry Baptiste, Shahdon Winchester.
Group F fixtures
Venue: Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella:
Haiti vs Guyana, 5 pm
T&T vs SVG, 7.30pm
SVG vs Haiti, 5pm
T&T vs Guyana, 7.30pm
Guyana vs SVG, 4pm
T&T vs Haiti, 6.30pm
T&T look for win in Caribbean Cup opener.
By Kern De Freitas (T&T Express).
HUNTING FOR GOALS
Nothing less than a convincing victory will do for hosts Trinidad and Tobago today when they face St Vincent and the Grenadines in their first Digicel Caribbean Cup Group F qualifier at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella from 7.30 p.m. this evening.
Coach Russell Latapy and the new-look Soca Warriors he started grooming since March, have been under fire for their recent results against Caribbean and CONCACAF opponents. And with speculation rife that Latapy's job hinges on T&T's performances at the regional competition, the team can hardly afford an early slip.
For the players themselves, the tournament also affords them the opportunity to show their worth.
T&T were thumped 3-0 by Panama, drew 0-0 away to Belize and 1-1 away to Guyana, and humbled 3-1 at home to Jamaica, before putting on a much-improved showing in a 1-0 away loss to the Jamaicans. But they also eased past St Lucia and St Kitts/Nevis in away friendlies.
The Soca Warriors will also face Guyana and Haiti—who meet each other in the first match of the Marabella double-header today from 5 p.m.— in Group F. They will be expected, therefore, to emerge comfortable winners from the group.
Recent history between T&T and St Vincent also dictates that the home team have the edge. They won their last encounter with the "Vincy Heat" 5-0 in a 2007 friendly at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
A year earlier, in World Cup qualifying, T&T won 3-1 and 2-0, and in 2005, T&T won the overall tie in regional qualifying, winning the first leg 3-1 under Bertille St Clair, but losing 1-0 to the Vincentians.
In captain Clyde Leon's book though, those results count for little.
"Those matches are in the past; they are good for the record books," Leon told T&TFF Media before T&T trained yesterday. "The game (today) is of most importance now."
"St Vincent always feel they have a good chance against us like the other Caribbean teams, and we must ensure that we take care of business and not allow them to stand a chance against us. I think the players understand their roles of the match, and we know what we have to do as a team. The result will come if we do what we need to do on the day," he added.
Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Anil Roberts, who previously said Latapy should be replaced as coach if unable to reach the final of the tournament, is also throwing his support behind the team.
Roberts thinks T&T can win the Cup, and added that he is not asking "miracles" of Latapy or the T&T Football Federation.
"All I am asking them to do is to win a Caribbean Cup which is probably one of the lowest levels of competitions in world football. If you cannot do that, then one would think you cannot go on to qualify for a World Cup. We have to be real about this," Roberts said.
Describing Latapy as "my personal friend", Roberts thought the former T&T midfielder "responded well" to his previous comments about Latapy's future.
"Yes, we lost (1-0 away) to Jamaica, but we saw a better performance with more structure and the team played well. I love Russell Latapy and all our boys," the Sport Minister said who feels a good Digicel Cup performance will serve T&T well for upcoming World Cup qualifying.
"Right now it's about getting ready for November 2, 4 and 6 and I believe we are going to win the Digicel Caribbean Cup and have a great run at 2014 in Brazil."
T&T will also face Guyana and Haiti at the Marabella Stadium on Thursday and Sunday, with their aim being one of two qualifying spots for the Digicel Caribbean Cup finals in Martinique next month.
The top four finishers of the tournament will advance to the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.