Trinidad and Tobago men's football team coach Angus Eve has embraced the Soca Warriors' March 2024 Copa America playoff match-up with Canada, saying "Yuh cyah play mas and fraid powder."
After T&T lost their Concacaf Nations League (CNL) A 2023/24 quarter-final tie to the defending champions US on Monday, Eve watched on with anticipation as his team's Copa 2024 playoff opponents were determined after two frantic quarter-finals on Tuesday night. Mexico overturned a two-goal first leg deficit against Honduras as they got a 4-2 penalty shootout victory at the famed Azteca Stadium following a last-minute 2-0 win in the second leg. Meanwhile, Jamaica created history away to Canada as they got a 3-2 second-leg win to clinch their Copa 2024 spot via the away goal ruling. Jamaica will be making their third appearance in the Copa competition, while this will be their first-ever appearance in the CNL semis.
Tuesday night's results have paved the way for the Warriors' meeting in Frisco, Texas with the highest-ranked CNL losing quarter-finalist – Canada. The Canadians are ranked 45th by Fifa. T&T are ranked 99th.
Eve told Newsday, at this stage of the competition, his team has to be prepared to come up against any opposition.
"All the teams are ranked higher than us so whoever we play we have to go there and be confident and do what we have been doing," Eve said. "T&T being here and in the final eight of Concacaf and having the opportunity to play – it has come a bit faster than we expected – but the Lord gives you what you deserve."
Eve said T&T are back in their rightful place in Concacaf's football landscape.
"We said we wanted to be in Concacaf Nations League A and we knew there was a great possibility of us playing the US, Mexico, Canada or Jamaica again. This is where we want to be so why cry about it. We have to play these games. As we say in T&T, 'you cyah play mas and fraid powder.'
"We have to play these teams and this is a stepping-stone to something we have never done before. We are going to grab the opportunity with both hands."
Eve said Canada has a very strong outfit and he pinpointed their key players such as Ligue One forward Jonathan David, La Liga's Cyle Larin and Bayern Munich's star flanker Alphonso Davies.
"Canada are a more cohesive unit and they try to play structural football with a lot of gold dust sprinkled in the middle of it. The US game would have given us a lot of confidence playing against guys who are at the highest level. The guys will be better for it and they will feel more comfortable in that type of environment.
"In international football, you need to be more proactive than reactive – and that is transition football. We have to be more proactive than reactive and I think we should be okay."
Eve says the process of integrating younger players is ongoing. but he is pleased with the strides the Warriors have made since their group stage exit at the 2023 Gold Cup. He still feels as though his inexperienced players need greater exposure outside of the Fifa international windows though.
"For the 2023 Gold Cup, we decided to take the more experienced players and that was on the back of a win against Guatemala in a pre-Gold Cup friendly with more of a locally based team. The tournament did not go too well.
"Although we were blooding young players throughout and playing them in bits and pieces, we felt the (Concacaf) Nations League was the right time to revamp and go with these players. We thought it was the right time to change the team and to revamp the team and start to look more futuristic with the team."
Eve's current contract ends in March 2024. The TT coach is grateful to the T&T Football Association (TTFA) for a second chance.
"A lot of people may have probably fired me after the Gold Cup. The normalisation committee showed trust in us and they gave us the opportunity. Nobody in (T&T) expected us to win any of the games. We have won four out of the six (Concacaf) Nations League games so far. I think the crowd is coming back and the confidence is coming back into the team."
On March 23, 2024, Eve and the Warriors will get another chance to measure their progress in the region when they meet Canada in a winner-take-all Copa 2024 playoff.
SOURCE: T&T Newsday