Wed, Mar

WARMING UP: National senior team players at a training session at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, Wednesday, January 11th 2023.

As he prepares a squad for March’s two Nations League matches, national senior football team coach Angus Eve is keeping his eyes on 2026 World Cup qualification and is keen to give his young players more exposure.

“This is a rebuilding stage,” Eve told the media at a training session at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Wednesday. “If you look at the group here, it’s a very young group of players with a couple of senior players sprinkled in there because that is where we are...We are building to 2026.

And so far, Eve is satisfied with what he is seeing from some of the youngsters.

“We had Nathaniel James who did fantastic for us in the Under-20s, Real Gill who did tremendous for us there also, so we have some nice young players who coming through. Unfortunately Nathaniel left last night (Tuesday) to go to a trial, but he was doing really, really well and I was hoping that he could have been in the squad....We have a nice young bunch of players that we think...given the right experiences, that come 2026 could contribute.”

And making reference also to Secondary Schools Football League 2022 standouts like Taryk Lee, Lindell Sween, Jaheim Faustin and Christian Bailey, Eve said this group needed to play more games.

Speaking of his own experience playing teams in Brazil as part of a T&T camp, he said: “We need to expose them. This is how you will build that experience. You can’t just play here or train here. The College League is not good enough to...develop players for a national team.”

The next FIFA World Cup will be held in the CONCACAF region in the United States, Canada and Mexico. It is expected to be an expanded 48-team tournament.

However, asked if the availability of more qualifying spots will make T&T likely qualifiers, Eve urged caution.

Stressing that local laws don’t allow the country to recruit players with T&T parentage as easily as other nations, Eve said: “To say that we are a shoo-in, it’s going to be a bigger job than that. Football, sport on the whole is not (about) the name of the team anymore.”

And quoting a statement made by Moroccan team officials during the Qatar World, Eve added: “They said that when other people were studying corruption and boardroom stuff, they were studying stuff on the field. That’s where we have to get back to.”

Concerning his side’s next couple assignments in the Nations League though, Eve attached equal importance to both the matches against the Bahamas on March 24 and Nicaragua on March 27.

“Bahamas are the ones who put us out of the World Cup, and the first game that you have is always the toughest game, and it’s away from home,” Eve noted. “They are a very plucky bunch, a very dogged bunch and they have a lot of pride, country pride; you saw that when we played them in the World Cup (qualifiers); so at the end of the day, each of the games are important. You need to win the first one so that the second one could be even more relevant.”

However, the T&T coach also noted that, “it won’t be the be-all and end-all,” if T&T didn’t beat the Bahamas and Nicaragua. “We still have another opportunity to qualify for the Gold Cup.”

He admitted however that, “there are a lot of things against us from trying to get to that spot but we are trying our damnedest best to get us there.”

One obstacle is the lack of playing opportunities for the locally-based players due to the absence of national league competitions. Eve is hoping that the weekly training session will help those players get a level of match fitness. He is also hoping to play friendly matches in the next FIFA window in March.

“It’s similar to what we did (last year) when we went to the Gold Cup, where we had the locally-based guys train and then in the window we then bring in the foreign-based guys to complement that.”

SOURCE: T&T Express