Gameday in Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago Skipper Kenwyne Jones will be hoping to lead his team back to the hexagonal stage of World Cup qualification for the first time since the 2010 campaign when they host Guatemala in their penultimate 2018 Concacaf World Cup Group C Semifinal Round qualifier at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, from 7 pm tonight.
The Stephen Hart-coached T&T currently sits at the top of the four-team group with ten points from four matches, three ahead of USA. Guatemala is next with six points and St Vincent and The Grenadines, bottom of the table without a point.
With two matches left for each team, T&T needs only a point from this match to qualify as one of the top two teams from the group to earn a spot in the six-team “The Hex” Final Round of Qualifiers to the World Cup in Russia.
T&T closes out its campaign when it travels to Jacksonville, Florida, USA, to meet the Americans on Tuesday, while Guatemala host St Vincent and The Grenadines.
Tonight’s match for the T&T squad will be the first since its 4-2 away loss to China in June in an international friendly. During its whirlwind tour T&T also fell to Peru (4-0) and Uruguay (3-1) to make up for the lack of activity after failing to qualify for the 100th anniversary Copa America qualifying loss (1-0) to Haiti.
However, in World Cup qualification Hart’s men last match was a convincing 6-0 thumping of St Vincent and The Grenadines at Mucurapo on March 29, with goals from Trevin Caesar (two), and one each from Sheldon Bateau, Joevin Jones, Kenwyne Jones and Kevin Molino.
The good news for Hart is all of the quintet are available for tonight’s clash as he seeks to extends this country’s recent run of impressive results against the Central Americans, which include a 2-1 win away in the first round with Khaleem Hyland, who is also in the team, and Kenwyne Jones the scorers.
In fact, T&T’s last loss to Guatemala, 5-1 on home soil was way back in 2005 in Bertille St Clair’s final match in charge of the 2006 Germany World Cup campaign which was followed by the arrival Leo Beenhakker. The Dutchman turned the entire campaign around and qualified the team to its first ever and lone senior World Cup Finals in Germany.
Since then, T&T has gone six matches unbeaten against tonight’s opponent including 3-3 road win in the 2006 qualifiers followed by three drawn results, 1-1 (2007 Gold Cup), 0-0 and 1-1 in the 2008 World Cup qualifiers to 2010 as well as a 3-1 win at the 2015 Gold Cup and this year’s first round win.
Speaking after his team’s training session at Malabar on Wednesday, the San Fernando-born Hart a former Canada national team coach said his team was getting back to its recent top form.
“From what we have done in training so far, we are starting to show a better cohesion in moving the ball around and a little bit quicker, just as well as we did in the second part of the practice game we played as well.”
He continued: “Guatemala is going to come out pressing and look to score early and keep us under pressure, and we have to understand what they are trying to do very quickly and settle down because there is going to be some tension and hopefully we do that quickly and dictate the game.
With regards to a lack of use of the playing venue for team training sessions in the build up to the match, Hart said he was a bit disappointed because he wanted to have a feel of the “new stadium” pitch because it’s in a very great shape now.”
Midfielder Molino believes the “Soca Warriors” possess the ability to inspire the nation.
“We’ve had a couple good sessions and everyone is really up for this game on Friday. We are not going to take the game lightly. We have a job to finish and we need to keep building on our last set of performances. We will fight until the end,” Molino said.
Yesterday, the T&T team had its second and final training session at the match venue from 6 pm after it was denied use of the venue on Tuesday and Wednesday due to rainy weather.
Coach Hart was forced to conduct training sessions at the Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar, while Guatemala trained at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, on Tuesday and had previously used the Malabar venue.
FIFA Match commissioner Victor Alfaro Gonzalez of Costa Rica who arrived in the country on Tuesday night, inspected the venue early yesterday and signaled the all clear for both teams to have their stipulated 45-minute training session at the game venue.
The referee for tonight’s encounter is John Pitti of Panama, while the assistant referees are Christian Ramirez Soto of Honduras and Gabriel Camerena of Panama.
Advisory for Patrons
Fans are advised that NO TICKETS will be on sale at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Friday and they are requested to purchase tickets at the Lotto Locations which will be available up until 7pm on Friday..
We are requesting that the following guidelines be adhered to
– No Coolers
– No large Knapsacks
– No alcohol to be brought into the Stadium by spectators
– No Firearms
-No musical instruments unless previously authorized by the TTFA
-All spectators will be scanned via Walk through scanners on entry,
– All spectators are asked to have their ticket in their hand to show on entry into the Stadium just prior to being searched at that Check Point
– As much as possible, other than motor vehicle keys, spectators are asked to refrain from walking with any type of metal object, to prevent a secondary check.
All ticket holders for uncovered stands are to enter through the St John’s Gate – (Gate 2)
– All ticket holders for the covered stands are to enter through the Lion’s Gate (Gate 3)