T&T Soca Warriors coach Angus Eve says his team faces a big possibility of going into its Concacaf Gold Cup first-round preliminary match against Guadeloupe at the DRV PNK Stadium, in Fort Lauderdale, USA on June 16 without playing any international warm-up or friendly encounters.
The Soca Warriors were scheduled to face 2022 FIFA World Cup host Qatar on June 8, and Concacaf rivals Guatemala on June in two friendly international.
Gold Cup warm-up matches in Florida, USA ahead of their win or go-home encounter with Guadeloupe with the winner to face the winner of the Guyana/Grenada clash for a spot in the Group D of the main draw which takes place from Juen 24 to July 4 alongside the top-seeded Canada, ranked 47th in the world, 116th-ranked Guatemala and Cuba, ranked 165th.
According to Eve and Shaun Fuentes, the T&T Football Association (T&TFA) Press Officer, there’s a new ruling from Concacaf that prohibits national teams from playing friendly matches in the same state a tournament will be played. For example, the Gold Cup will be played in the state of Florida, so no team could play international warm-up matches in that state for that entire month.
Both men were speaking at the T&TFA Press Conference held at the Home of Football, Couva on Wednesday.
Eve stated, “We had a match in mid-May which I choose not to take simply because the local league has to pick three teams by May 28 to compete in Concacaf competitions, so I just thought that we have been disrupting the league and what the local clubs are doing.
“So, we actually had two matches planned for early June, that is Qatar on June 8, and Guatemala on June 11, unfortunately, we got some bad news again as the matches were to be played in the USA.
“However, Concacaf last week send us communication saying that we can’t play in the same state that they have competitions in, it’s news to me, but it’s a new Gold Cup ruling as well,” said Eve.
Fuentes added, “This information not only affects us as Costa Rica, Guatemala and Qatar were also notified that they could not play pre-tournament matches within the same state and their scheduled Gold Cup main draw matches, and like other teams we are now seeking alternative friendly venues to try and get a friendly or two before the match against Guadeloupe on June 16.
Eve was quick to point out that the match with Qatar is already gone as the Middle East nation has already rescheduled their build-up to the tournament with a friendly match carded to be played in Spain on that same date.
“So, as it stands, we most likely will have the mandatory four days as provided by FIFA before the start of the tournament and go into camp on June 12, ahead of our opening match.
T&T qualified for the Gold Cup preliminary qualifiers as a League B second-place finisher with French Guiana, Guadeloupe, and Guyana, together with League A third-place finishers Curaçao, Grenada, Martinique, and Suriname, and League C group winners Puerto Rico, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and Sint Maarten.
The Soca Warriors were forced to contest the preliminary round of qualification for the second straight Gold Cup campaign to qualify for the Gold Cup main draw group stage after failing to qualify directly from their four-team CONCACAF Nations League B Group C round-robin home-and-away series last month.
Eve’s men entered their final League B Group C match against table leader Nicaragua at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet, Tobago needing a win to secure the top spot in the group, promotion to League A of the CONCACAF Nations League and automatic qualification to the Gold Cup.
However, T&T and Nicaragua drew 1-1 which meant Eve's men ended with 13 points, one behind Nicaragua to miss out on being among the 12 automatic qualifiers for the 2023 Gold Cup, alongside Qatar, League A group winners: Canada, Mexico, Panama, and the USA, the four League A runners-up Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Jamaica along with the League B group winning quartet of Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, and Nicaragua.
Reflecting on the team's failed campaign in the 2022/2023 Concacaf Nations League B Group C series, Eve said the fact is that the result was not what we wanted albeit the team is in a very moment.
"We would have liked to qualify for the tournament (Gold Cup) directly, but unfortunately we didn't, so we have to go through the preliminary stage."
"In saying so, we do have experience in it as we went through that phase, the same process in 2021, and we are in a better place now that a lot of players were unattached simply because there was no local league football running for a number of years in the country, and now that we have a league, we feel a little bit more confident that the players are getting the necessary match practice that they will have to get.
With respect to preparations of the local team, Eve added, "We have as a technical staff have been monitoring the players who have been playing both locally, and abroad, and there are some players who are unattached, and they might probably be in a bit of jeopardy because we now have the opportunity to select players who are actually in season, and playing football, and who are match fit."
Guadeloupe, meanwhile, finished second to Cuba in their CONCACAF Nations League B Group A series with three wins and as many defeats in six matches for nine points, six behind the table toppers and just ahead of Antigua and Barbuda on goal difference while Barbados ended in cellar-place with three points.
T&T and Guadeloupe have met seven times internationally with each team winning twice with the other three matches drawn.
The Soca Warriors went under to Guadeloupe in their first two matches, 2-1 in 1966 and 2-0 in the 1989 Caribbean Cup, which T&T won, but have since gone on a five-match unbeaten run versus the French-speaking Caribbean Island, drawing goalless in 1994 also at the Caribbean Cup, before securing a 3-2 win in the 1999 Caribbean Cup and a 1-0 win in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2003, followed by a 2-2 draw and a goalless draw in 2007, and 2008 friendly internationals. W
with regards to Guadeloupe commonly called the “Gwada Boys” and coached by Guadeloupe-born former France-international Jocelyn Angloma, Eve said his team has been doing their homework.
He explained, "They (Guadeloupe), have a number of players playing in the French First Division, and they do have a number of players also playing in the French Second Division, and we are dissecting the way they play and to that end, we are in the process of adding an additional member of staff, another Data Analyst (contractual discussions still ongoing) who will help us in the dissecting the way they play and the players that they have and what their tendencies are.
The Gold Cup takes place from June 16 to July 16 and will crown the best national team in the region with 15 stadiums in 14 USA and Canadian metropolitan areas hosting matches.
In addition to the T&T and Guadeloupe encounter, the preliminary round one fixtures between Martinique and St Lucia, and Curacao and St Kitts and Nevis will also take place on June 16 at the DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale from 7 pm, and 9 pm, respectively.
One day later (June 17), at the same venue, the three remaining first-round preliminary matches will come off with French Guiana against Sint Maarten from 4.30 pm followed by Suriname versus Puerto Rico at 7 pm, and two hours later, Guyana up against Grenada.
In the second round of the preliminaries, the winners of the Martinique/St Lucia match and the winner of the Suriname/Puerto Rico clash will square off for a place in Group C alongside the Central American trio of Costa Rica, Panama, and El Salvador while the third and final preliminary round pairings see Curacao and St Kitts and Nevis winners meeting French Guiana and Sint Maarten winner for a place in Group A where the USA, Jamaica, and Nicaragua await. Group B of the main draw will feature Mexico, Haiti, Honduras, Asian Champions, and guest nation, Qatar.
New CONCACAF ruling disrupts T&T’s Gold Cup warm-up plans.
By Ian Prescott (T&T Express).
QATAR MATCH OFF
AN INNOCUOUS CONCACAF Gold Cup rule has cost Trinidad and Tobago a juicy pre-Gold Cup warm-up against Qatar.
The Middle Eastern hosts of the 2022 FIFA World, who will be a guest team at the Gold Cup, will instead warm up at a summer football tournament in Spain, while another T&T warm-up against Guatemala is being re-organised elsewhere.
These were among the revelations made yesterday, when T&T senior men’s national team head coach Angus Eve held a briefing at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
The Soca Warriors were due to play Qatar on June 8 and Guatemala on June 11 in the United States, before entering the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifying tournament where they play a straight knockout against Guadeloupe on June 16. On June 20, the winners of that match face the winners of another knockout tie between Guyana and Grenada for a spot in the main draw of the Gold Cup, which runs from June 24 to July 16.
“Unfortunately, we got some bad news,” Eve reported. “CONCACAF sent out a communication, like two weeks ago, saying that we can’t play in a state where their competition is being played.”
A former national player who represented T&T at the semi-final of the 2000 Gold Cup, Eve admitted never before hearing of such a rule.
“Qatar is now off the table because of that ruling,” Eve announced. “We are working on trying to get two other matches.”
TTFA press officer Shaun Fuentes further clarified.
“It’s a Gold Cup ruling that they (CONCACAF) have issued (which states) any state or city that Gold Cup matches are being played, they are asking teams that are participating in the Gold Cup to refrain from playing international warm-ups in those territories.”
Fuentes said the TTFA must now seek to either play its warm-up matches outside of the United States or play in a different US city. Fuentes did not say in which US city the proposed friendlies were to be played.
“We were notified of this just last week. It is not just us that are affected. Costa Rica are affected, Jamaica and Guatemala, as well as Qatar,” Fuentes added. “The fixtures for those friendly matches were set until those notifications from CONCACAF.”
Eve also explained that he had earlier turned down another friendly international carded for mid-May, with the intention of not disrupting the Trinidad and Tobago Premier Football League competition.
“I (would) like to take the local players to an international game so that they could play at that speed and at that level, before I pick the final squad,” Eve stated. “We didn’t take the match, simply because we didn’t want to disrupt what the local clubs were doing.”
With the Guatemala international possibly still on the cards, Eve hopes to have two additional warm-ups before facing Guadeloupe. He has also added a yet-to-be-confirmed data analyst to his staff, to analyse possible Gold Cup opponents.
Eve revealed that his team will not have a training camp prior to the Gold Cup because of the involvement of players with their clubs, both local and international. His players will only become available on official FIFA international match-days. He also expressed some concern that his captain Joevin Jones, Jesse Williams and Noah Powder are without a club. On the other hand, Kevin Molino, Daniel Phillip and Levi Garcia are fit again after suffering recent injuries.
Eve will officially have his players from June 12, four days before playing Guadeloupe. However, he is enthused that his local players especially, are getting necessary match practice through the TTPFL.
“All of the players are in season,” Eve declared. “We probably will just have to go into the (team) camp four days before.”
Despite the setbacks, Eve believes T&T are better served by having had the experience of getting through the 2021 Gold Cup qualifying round. Two years ago, T&T beat Montserrat 6-1, then French Guiana on penalty kicks, following a 1-1 draw. On entering Group A of the main draw, the Soca Warriors held finalists Mexico (0-0) and Guatemala (1-1) to draws, but lost 2-0 to resurgent quarter-finalists El Salvador.
“We are very confident in what we are able to do and what we can do, and we are realistic in what we can do,” Eve assured.