Sidebar

28
Fri, Feb

Typography
Trinidad and Tobago national coach Leo Beenhakker announced on Tuesday night, after T&T's 2-0 friendly win over Iceland, that he was ready to name a provisional 28-man squad for the 2006 World Cup tournament within the next two weeks.


Beenhakker will reduce this shortlist to his final 23 by the time the "Soca Warriors" return to Trinidad for battle with Peru on May 10.

"(There will be) no new guys," said Beenhakker. "We have seen everybody."

The global search for players, it would seem, only unearthed four newcomers - Fulham goalkeeper Anthony Warner, under-21 international Kevon Neaves, USA League defender Anthony Noriega and Swindon Town midfielder Ricky Shakes.

Warner had an uneventful evening - apart from one spliced clearance - while Neaves came on too late to make an impact and Noriega was not used at all.

Shakes, who replaced Carlos Edwards on the right flank at halftime, exhibited pace but little technique or poise. If North East Stars attacker Gary Glasgow was watching, he might be forgiven a touch of self-pity at not getting such an opportunity.

So, the bad news is that the national team will not be significantly strengthened following the qualifying rounds.

Now with that out of the way, let's get to the things that did go right.

Where better to start than with team captain and double goal scorer Dwight Yorke?

Yorke was at the heart of everything positive about T&T's football on Tuesday and took his goals with poise.

It was fitting that he saved such a polished performance for British shores that witnessed his best years but cruelly labelled him a "has been" just ten months ago.

Yorke endured a bittersweet relationship with T&T fans for much of his career but has gone a long way towards making up with a string of steady performances in Trinidad as the team clinched a historic World Cup place. On Tuesday, in the 57 minutes he spent on the field, Yorke similarly had UK-based "Trinbagonians" swooning with affection.

The Sky Sports TV headline read "Yorke is back and scoring" but showed a clip with the grinning player handing autographed balls to scantily clad female fans.

For years, the British press has been more intrigued with Yorke as a playboy than a footballer. If he keeps playing like he did on Tuesday though, he may yet alter his own history.

Beenhakker was annoyed at his players' frequent use of long balls against Iceland. But, as midfielder Aurtis Whitley struggled to assert himself in sub-zero conditions, Yorke dropped off lone striker Stern John to add class and composure to the proceedings.

"Dwight is a good player," said Beenhakker. "Not just in an individual way but he is a guy who can move the team."

Apart from the neat one-twos and change of the lines of attack, Yorke also showed an improved passing range with a stream of aggressive diagonal passes through the channels.

More often than not, lively left winger Collin Samuel was Yorke's target.

Beenhakker was impressed by the Dundee United player.

"He did very well," he said. "I invited him during the qualifying matches and I didn't at the time have a very good impression of him. But he is doing much better."

Dennis Lawrence, who assumed the armband when Yorke was replaced, also gave a strong showing alongside Marvin Andrews in central defence while Edwards was efficient in possession on the right flank.

Elsewhere around the field, the Warriors were steady barring the occasional lapses in touch.

As a team, they coped well with the threat posed by Iceland captain and Chelsea star Eidur Gudjohnsen.

Iceland are ranked at a modest 95 by FIFA, 45 places below T&T, but are rarely overrun and possess a respectable offensive game.

Beenhakker was happy but calm in victory.

"Nobody has to tell me that we sill have to do a lot of work to be successful in Germany," he said. "I am happy with the result but I won't celebrate for the next three nights."

The Dutchman remains in Europe to watch his overseas players until the team stops over in Trinidad on May 10.

It was straight back to work yesterday with T&T's three World Cup group rivals in action. Beenhakker chose to watch Sweden tackle the Republic of Ireland while his assistant travelled to Liverpool for England's clash with Uruguay.

Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) special advisor Jack Warner has repeatedly emphasised the importance of their World Cup meeting with England. Beenhakker countered that the first group match is more crucial and clearly gave priority to Sweden yesterday.

At London, the team again showed why Beenhakker's logic invariably wins.