Thu, May

Mar 23, 2024; Frisco, Texas, USA; Canada midfielder Alphonso Davies (19) and Trinidad and Tobago defender Shannon Gomez (14) battle for control of the ball during the second half at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

SOCA WARRIORS defender Shannon Gomez says qualification for the Fifa 2026 World Cup will be a ‘massive achievement’ for the T&T men’s football team and he believes it’s imperative the players maintain the habits that took them through the 2023/24 Concacaf Nations League A campaign.

On Saturday, T&T’s hopes of advancing to the 2024 Copa America tournament were dashed when they fell to a 2-0 loss in their one-off play-in match against Canada in Frisco, Texas.

Though the team expressed their obvious disappointment at missing out on the historic Copa America qualification, head coach Angus Eve said his charges acquitted themselves well despite the heartbreak loss.

With T&T’s 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign starting on June 5 versus Grenada, Gomez said now is the time for the team to stick together and build on the Nations League A platform as they seek to book this country’s second-ever ticket to the World Cup.

“We need to stay focused on what’s next for T&T football,” Gomez said, in a video which was released by T&T Football Association (TTFA) media on Monday. “(We have to) think about the things we (dreamt) of as kids, and being able to qualify for a World Cup will be a massive achievement. There are no words to describe what that will mean for T&T and what it will mean for us as well.”

After being elevated to the 2023/24 cycle of the Nations League A tournament following Concacaf’s decision to punish Nicaragua for their use of an ineligible player in the preceding campaign, T&T managed a quarterfinal finish in the tournament and lost to eventual winners USA in an exciting two-legged affair in the knockout stage.

With six Concacaf teams getting the opportunity to represent the region at this year’s Copa America tournament, the Soca Warriors missed the opportunity to rub shoulders in the group stage with reigning World Cup champions Argentina, as well as Chile and Peru.

“Nobody goes out onto the field thinking that they are not going to win the game. We went to win the game,” said Gomez, reflecting on the play-in clash. “We had the opportunity to win the game. But overall, it’s about reflecting and taking the positives out of the game to push forward and continue producing great results for T&T.”

For the second round of 2026 World Cup qualifying, T&T have been placed in group B alongside Bahamas, Costa Rica, Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis. T&T will play four matches in the second round, with two home matches against Grenada and St Kitts, and two away matches against Bahamas and the 54th-ranked Costa Rica.

The top two teams in the group will advance to the final round where 12 teams will be split into three groups of four.

The teams will play six matches on a home-and-away basis, with the three group winners gaining automatic qualification for the World Cup which will be co-hosted by Concacaf teams Canada, Mexico and the US. The two best second-placed teams will then advance to an intercontinental playoff to fight for two World Cup spots.

Gomez said the attitude and mindset the players display going back to their respective clubs will influence the rhythm and cohesion for the Soca Warriors once the World Cup qualifying quest begins.

“For me personally, it’s about strengthening our strengths and working on our weaknesses to strengthen them as well,” the 27-year-old San Antonio FC player said. “I think just focusing on that and keeping that as the focal point of the camp and from the top come down with TTFA and the continued support from the T&T fans.

“That will be the best thing moving forward and to be able to pick up some massive results coming up in the World Cup qualifiers.”

SOURCE: T&T Newsday