Trinidad and Tobago’s senior men’s team will head into action at 8:30pm TT time (6:30pm in Nicaragua) on Tuesday against the Nicaragua senior men’s team in the first of a two-match friendlies series at the National Stadium in Managua.
The T&T squad arrived in Managua just before midnight on Sunday before checking into the Hotel Barcelo in the capital. Head Coach Tom Saintfiet was scheduled to conduct a training session at 6:30pm at the match venue on artificial surface of which the two games will be played.
India-based forward Cornell Glen, a member of this country’s 2006 World Cup squad, joined the team on Sunday and traveled with the contingent to Managua. US-based midfielder Kevan George will arrive here on Tuesday.
Saintfiet spoke ahead of tomorrow’s game.
“It’s always special and it’s an honour to be national team coach of any country and Trinidad and Tobago is naturally a big football nation. So it’s now a new start, a fresh start and we are going to use these two matches against Nicaragua to prepare our team for the Gold Cup and later on for the World Cup qualifiers,” Saintfiet told TTFA Media at Hotel Barcelo on Monday.
“It won’t be easy matches. Nicaragua is also a strong football country. In the last games of the World Cup qualifiers they beat Jamaica at home 3-2 and in the last year they also won friendly matches against Cuba 5-0 and Panama 1-0. They have a strong selection at this moment in time. It won’t be easy for us but I’m going to use it and we are going to try and get a decent result,” he added.
“Naturally you wants always a good result but I don’t think at the moment that’s the most important thing,” Saintfiet said. “ We could win both matches against Nicaragua and lose i the qualifiers for the Gold Cup and World Cup so I would prefer to win the World Cup qualifiers and if possible the Gold Cup qualifiers but on the other side if you play a game, you play to win.
“Most important for me is to see tomorrow a team which understands the tactical concept that I want, which can implement it on the pitch, which can play disciplined and which can have both offensive and defensive tasks of what I request. If that results in a good result I will be happy coach and if that doesn’t result in a good result I will be still satisfied if I see what we did in practice,” Saintfiet added.
Former Sunderland player Carlos Edwards, another member of the 2006 World Cup squad, has been named as the team captain for these upcoming matches. He is expecting Nicaragua to be strong test for the current T&T squad.
“So far things have been really productive. We’ve been put through our paces. He’s started off on the right foot, making sure the players are fit and ready for the game and also to have a nice little bond. He called the camp in the right time so that the players can get to know each other,” Edwards said.
“It’s a big privilege to wear the captain’s armband. Yes I will have a bit of responsibility. I think he has chosen me because of the experience and to have me put my arms around the younger guys and lead them in the right direction. At the end of the day everyone has to pull their weight. They just can’t look up to me and think I will orchestrate everything. I am here for one reason which is to make the country and the team successful once again,” Edwards added.
The current T&T team has newcomers in W Connection’s Maurice Forde and Club Sando’s Akeem Roach while Jabloteh duo of Tyrone Charles and Nathan Lewis, Alvin Jones and Hashim Arcia are also back in the squad after having a short stint in the past. The likes of Carlyle Mitchell, Aubrey David, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Jomal Williams, Shahdon Winchester, Hughtun Hector Trevin Caesar, Daneil Cyrus, Cornell Glen and Kevan George will be expected to carry the team.
Nicaragua’s biggest achievement has been qualification for the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup after they defeated Guatemala 3-2 to advance to the prestigious regional tournament. And in the preliminary phase of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, they led Jamaica 3-0 at one point in Kingston, eventually winning 3-2 but had the deficit overturned in the return leg.
They are captained by 27-year-old midfielder Juan Barrera who plays for Guatemalan club CSD Comunicaciones. Their squad for the two games also includes forward Bryan Bonilla of Costa Rican club Sporting San Jose and Spain-based striking duo Carlos Chavarria (Futbol Alcobendas Sport) and Jaime Moreno (Cultural Deportivo Leonesa). Nicaragua is preparing for the Central American Cup (Gold Cup qualifiers) where they face Honduras on January 13th, Panama, Costa Rica, Belize and El Salvador.