Fri, Jul

‘Warriors’ play for Copa spot... stage set for contest with Haiti.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Senior Men’s Team will have it all to play for when they face off with Haiti in a win or nothing Copa America Centenario qualifying match at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez from 5:30pm (6:30pm TT time) on Friday. Cuba takes on hosts Panama in the second game from 8pm.

At stake is a place in the historic Copa America Centenario where some of the world’s best team with their marquee players will be participating. The likes of Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Unites States, Mexico and Costa Rica will be awaiting the winner of the encounter. It is surely where Radanfah Abu Bakr and his teammates will want to be in June.

“Yea, no doubt about it, our ultimate objective is to win tomorrow’s match and we are hoping to take care of business before it gets down to penalties,” Abu Bakr told TTFA Media following an early morning training session at the Maracana Artificial surface stadium on Thursday.

Skipper Kenwyne Jones and Sheldon Bateau are missing due to club commitments while Keron Cummings, Justin Hoyte and Willis Plaza are all out through injury. But the team has several players who have carried their weight in 2015 such as Joevin Jones, Cordell Cato, Abu Bakr, goalkeepers Jan Michael Williams and Marvin Phillip, Andre Boucaud, Kevan George, Daneil Cyrus, Aubrey David, Mekeil Williams, Khaleem Hyland and Jonathan Glenn among others with the likes Neveal Hackshaw, Jomal Williams and Shahdon Winchester capable of adding strong support.

“We’ve had some good time together and the sessions have been intense. I think we’re well prepared. One of the key aspects going for us over the last year is the player pool and the guys who have stepped in when a few other players have been injured, suspended or not available and I think it will be the same again tomorrow. We have enough talented players and the attitude is right,” Abu Bakr added.

The Denmark-based defender was among the scorers during the shootout when T&T lost to Panama at the Gold Cup quarter finals where a win would have pushed T&T through to the Copa America.

Hart commented : “I think we have to do what we do well, be consistent with it, minimize our errors in crucial parts of the field where we could be punished and understand that this game will be a tight one and can possibly be won in the second half so we have to manage it properly.

“It’s the nature of the game and we’ve practiced the penalty kicks. We know who are the responsible shooters but in reality when it comes to that situation it’s who feels they can kick. I cannot tell somebody to go and kick and their frame of mind is not once confidence. I will try as best as possible not to reach that situation in our favour.”

San Jose Earthquakes forward Cordell Cato described the encounter as beyond huge.

“The team is definitely ready for the game. Everyone is mentally and physical ready for it so it’s just about getting the business done tomorrow. The game is beyond huge if I can use that term. To be able to qualify for this tournament will be a major step for Trinidad and Tobago,” Cato said.

And fellow MLS-based professional, Joevin Jones believes T&T can turn out a winning performance.

“I feel very good at the moment. The mood in the camp is excellent, the love is there and everyone has each other’s back at the moment. We all want to advance to the Copa America in June and hopefully our performance will get us that spot tomorrow.

T&T will have a 45-minute session at the game venue on Thursday evening. The conditions have been quite humid in Panama City over the past two days and similar is expected on game day.

T&T will play in all white and it was announced at the pre-game match coordination meeting that cautions or red cards for the winning team will carry over to the Copa America while the same will carry over to the next official international match or World Cup qualifier for the losing team from tomorrow’s encounter. The game will head to extra-time and penalty kicks if necessary to determine a winner.

The Haitians meantime, will have at least nine players in its team tomorrow from the line up which lost 1-0 at home to Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier in November. Those include French-based midfielder Max Hilaire and Turkish-based forward Kervens Belfort. French-based striker Duckens Nazon will miss the game after failing to be released by his club Stade Lavallois. Nazon scored the equalizing goal in Haiti’s draw with Panama at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

In a statement, Nazon said: “My dear compatriots and dear teammates. It is with great sadness that I announce that I will not be present at the qualifying match against Trinidad. I thank the coach and coaching staff of the national selection for their efforts with my club to release me for this match of great importance to me and to us all. This game is not positioned during the FIFA dates. My club has decided, as is its right, not to release me for this game. Although it pains me, I respect this decision motivated by the injury of the club’s striker. I have to be ready to play. I offer to the national team my full support for this match. I know my teammates have the quality and determination to get this qualification. Come on, guys, take us to the Copa America!”

Video: Watch today’s Video Update as the T&T team prepares for Haiti


The Warriors must show their motion.
By Alvin Corneal (Guardian).

With the year 2015 behind us all, the search for an exciting 2016 is facing the Soca Warriors. The general consensus regarding the improvement of the team has been given a good rating, which means that the days ahead starting with tonight’s match against Haiti, has to provide our people with consistency and positive results.

I am certain that the schedule which is now appearing before our squad, could probably end up as a definite trend as to whether our players are now physically, psychologically and mentally ready to plan for the entire year.

The first hurdle is tonight’s contest against Haiti in Panama. Under normal circumstances, the emphasis may not appear to be one of immense value, as the Haitians have not been one of the Caribbean teams which have defeated the Warriors in recent times.

A victory for Stephen Hart and his team will bring a guarantee to participate in the inaugural Copa America tournament which will bring together the South American giants of World Soccer up against the best of Concacaf.

It is clear that the renewed frame of mind on the part of the players has been different from previous occasions. The change of the leadership at the TTFA seem to have convinced the new government that their financial input into the program was of paramount importance in order to have the players in a great frame of mind.

From the initial decision to withdraw their services unless they received their outstanding monies, through dialogue with the relevant persons, the group were able to focus on their two sessions daily under the watchful eyes of the coaching staff whose performances over the past year have been commended by the TTFA and the fans as well.

Misfortune over a shooting incident which involved the newest star Keron Cummings, an injury to Sheldon Bateau, and the absence of skipper Kenwyne Jones because of his recent change of clubs, may appear to be some type of set back as far as this trio had shown in almost every match.

However, there were also certain talented players who were previously injured and are now fit enough to join the squad. My recollection of the performances of Haiti in the Caribbean tournament played in Jamaica and the Gold Cup, was surprisingly very good and they appeared to have come a long way with their present group of players.

Their Gold Cup  sounded a serious bell to all the others, but in this case, T&T especially. There is no room for lethargy, or simple errors. It is one game which is literally a knock out. It is the type of game where immediate focus is valuable and intensity has to be the major rule for each player.

Maybe we should realise that victory in this match will give the team the right spirit to breeze past St. Vincent twice in March and  continue to take care of Guatemala at home, results which will make no difference whether or not the USA win their match when the warriors are away to them.

Straight into these matches will be the Copa America series which to my mind, is probably the most prestigious opportunity in a lifetime. So excuses have been removed, the fans are optimistic, the players are comfortable with the payment pattern, and Haiti’s history of beating us have not been achieved in recent times.

Performance always beat ole talk, according to the old folks, and we must all hope that it applies to this game and our team.