Tue, Mar

Soca Warriors to face Canada in Copa America playoff, Eve: Win over US a boost for playoff

The Trinidad and Tobago men's football team will face Canada in a one-off playoff match on March 23, 2024 in Texas, to qualify for the June-July 2024 Conmebol Copa America tournament.

On Monday night, T&T's hopes of advancing to the semi-finals of the 2023/24 Concacaf Nations League (CNL) A were dashed after a 4-2 aggregate loss to the US – despite a 2-1 win in the second leg at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo.

T&T were still guaranteed a Copa 2024 playoff spot, and their opponent was determined after two exciting CNL quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Jamaica pulled off a stunning 3-2 win away to Canada to win on away goals, after a 4-4 tie on aggregate. Meanwhile, 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup champions Mexico overcame a 2-0 first leg deficit against Honduras to win 4-2 on penalties after getting a 2-0 win of their own in a frenetic second leg.

For the Copa 2024 playoff, the highest-ranked losing quarter-finalist is paired with the lowest-ranked losing quarter-finalist.

Canada are ranked 45th by Fifa. T&T are ranked 99th.

The two other losing quarter-finalists, Costa Rica, ranked 46th by Fifa, and Honduras, who are ranked at 78th, will meet in the other playoff match at the same venue.

Jamaica, Mexico, Panama and the US are the four Concacaf nations confirmed for Copa 2024 after reaching the CNL semis.

Eve: Win over US a boost for Copa America playoff

Trinidad and Tobago men's football team coach Angus Eve and team captain Aubrey David believe the Soca Warriors' 2-1 win in the return leg of their Concacaf Nations League (CNL) A quarter-final versus the US will boost the team's confidence as they look ahead to the Copa America 2024 playoff in March.

T&T went down 4-2 on aggregate to the defending champions after an enthralling clash on Monday night at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo.

But Eve's charges left the arena with their shoulders high after a solid showing against Concacaf's best team and the 11th best team on the Fifa rankings. The US qualified for the Copa America tournament and also booked their spot in the CNL semi-finals.

Eve's charges can still recognise their Copa dream too, but they must navigate a playoff match against the highest-ranked losing quarter-finalist in the CNL knockout phase. With the identity of T&T's opponents still undecided at press time, Eve and his players are welcoming the challenge which lies ahead.

"This (result) goes a long way in building team confidence. Every time the guys play they get a little more confidence," Eve said in the post-match briefing on Monday. "When they play a game like this against an opposition like that – and come out with that type of performance and come out with that type of result – it only augurs well for them to believe in themselves more."

David, 33, who took over the team captaincy after Kevin Molino retired on September 1, said he is "living his dream" and believes the team is trending upwards.

"I think it is a step in the positive direction for us to get the win. This is the last Fifa window for the year, so I think we have ended the year on a good note, and the players have a lot of belief amongst themselves that we can play against the likes of the US and these teams.

"This was our goal when the year started. We wanted to get back into (Concacaf Nations) League A and try to stake a claim and put T&T football back where it was.

"It is a bittersweet feeling. It is amazing to get a victory against the US at home, but we did not get to qualify for the Copa America tournament this time around. We have another game in March and we have to go with everything we have. I think we can do the job in March."

Eve once again commended David's leadership on and off the field: "This is a fantastic result for us for where we are in our development."

Eve was impressed by the ball-movement and chance-creation by his Soca Warriors, who sought to press home their numerical advantage after US full back Sergino Dest was sent off in the 39th minute.

Eve said the pair of Daniel Phillips and Andre Rampersad "were unbelievable in the midfield" for T&T. The hosts' full-back pair of Shannon Gomez and Andre Raymond were also lauded for their tenacious outings in their hybrid positions, which saw them pushing high up the flanks to try and give T&T added width in attack.

Another T&T defender, Alvin Jones, once again stole the show against the US as he got the eventual game-winner with a rasping right-footed free kick in the second half.

In October 2017, Jones stunned the US with a long-range blast at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva as the Warriors prevented the visitors from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

"Scoring the winner against the US at home is a big thing for me and this month is a very emotional month for all of us as a country," said Jones, referring to the 34th anniversary of the 1989 World Cup qualifier between the Strike Squad and the US.

"We have a lot of young talent coming up, and it is just about coaching them and nurturing them. This win can build our confidence going forward to the next round to try and qualify for Copa 2024."

Eve says he would love T&T to organise friendly matches before the Copa 2024 playoff, keeping the playing style of their match-day opponents in mind.

In the US camp, coach Greg Berhalter and his team were not chirpy and upbeat despite sealing a Copa spot, as he reflected on an indifferent showing from his team. Berhalter was particularly disappointed with the actions of Dest, who was given his marching orders after picking up a pair of yellow cards in quick succession for dissent.

"We achieved the overall objective of this camp, which was to qualify for the Copa America (2024 tournament) and the semi-finals of the (Concacaf Nations League A) – however, not in the fashion we would have wanted to.

Sergino's behaviour, he said, "is concerning. It is not what we represent and it is not who we are as a group. We pride ourselves on staying mentally disciplined and being able to battle through any kind of decisions – whether they are good decisions or bad decisions."