With the Angus Eve’s Red Force holding an outside chance of qualifying for the semifinals leading to a place in the London Olympics, their final opponents in the group, Honduras, also had similar thoughts. T&T had to win to advance; Honduras needed only a draw.
In the end, it was Honduras 2 vs T&T 0. A plucky draw against Panama, suggested that T&T could win against Honduras whose performances fluctuated during the tournament. For T&T, the absence of Jamaal Gay was surprising. He was the most experienced striker and has a knack for scoring and one must consider that only two goals were scored in three hours of football.
That suggested the other strikers were not prolific scorers. Nevertheless, the coach would have had a reason for making such a move and probably felt that the unusual speed of Cesar may well have surprised the Central Americans.
Packing a midfield with three defenders also appeared strange, but the failure of the midfielders to produce any organised form of ball winning procedure against Mexico, certainly led the technical staff to correct that problem. It worked well against Panama and Honduras with skipper Bateau, Kevan George, and Mekeil Williams closing down the opposing midfield trio and dispossessing them with a certain degree of success.
But as one problem was solved, another cropped up, as the ball distribution by the same ball winners was at best faulty, at worst, horrible. Honduras regained the ball, not through tactical formula, but by some inaccurate passing and wasted long balls towards the lone striker Shadhon Winchester, who was always surrounded by three defenders.
This strategy reflected the absence of good support and this encouraged the individual approach of some who felt inclined to win the match through their own skill. Knowing that one goal could put T&T in an awkward position, Honduras, through the artistry of their playmakers, Martinez, Mejia, and Crisanto, a classy right wing back, took the fight to the seven-man T&T defence, especially as they realized that counter attacks were not even on the cards.
Even after one goal down, T&T should have brought the game back level early in the second half. Chances for Winchester, Molino, Cesar, and even skipper Bateau, failed to capitalise. Young Winchester, who had quite a good game, created a wonderful chance for himself in the opponent’s penalty area and failed to complete what would have been a fine goal.
Bateau’s cross was even more exciting when it found Winchester’s head on the six-yard line and the goalkeeper on the goalline. A directed header on either side of the keeper would have entered the net. For the last 20 minutes, the team sprung to life as Molino and Jovin Jones started some combination moves which caused serious concerns for Honduras.
They used an injured player’s delay to get together during the match to deal with what was appearing to be a positive challenge by T&T. Goals showed up, shots were taken with constant regularity, but none finding their mark and time eventually ran out for the twin island state.
Admittedly, their final match was their best effort and may well have left them with the belief that our country’s national programme can take these lessons and move ahead to the upcoming Gold Cup preliminaries and a team building programme for the next few years.