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Thu, Sep

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Francisco Maturana (far left), Anton Corneal, assistant coach & Michael MauriceColombian denies selecting squad.

Trinidad and Tobago head coach Francisco Maturana is consistent only in his inconsistencies when it comes to squad selection. And, after confusing the nation with such gems as the exclusion of Dennis Lawrence in Chicago and the demotion of Stern John in Bermuda, there was probably only one person left for him to surprise.
So, on Sunday night, Maturana expressed surprise that Maturana selected a squad without a left back to face Cuba in next week's World Cup qualifier and promptly distanced himself from himself.

"If there is a (team) list out there that is somebody else's problem," said Maturana, through his translator Professor Ancil Glod, "I didn't give anybody any list."

Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) press officer Shaun Fuentes insisted that the Colombian selected his 18-man squad on Saturday night and, during Sunday's final Digicel Caribbean Cup qualifier, the relevant names were relayed to the media.

Fuentes offered that Maturana probably intended to make late adjustments as he is prone to do. But such inconvenient-or convenient-memory loss would do nothing to quell speculation as to the machinations of team selection these days.

For last month's decisive World Cup qualifier against the United States, the Colombian summoned utility player Silvio Spann from non-league Wales-based club, Wrexham, on a recommendation from one of his national players. The "Soca Warriors" won 2-1 against a weakened North American outfit and, considering Spann was not recalled to face Cuba, perhaps his performance left the coach less than thrilled.

Nothing if not adventurous, Maturana was not deterred from another stab in the dark with his shock selections of 34-year-old Hull goalkeeper Anthony Warner and 27-year-old Rhyl FC winger Josh Johnson.

Warner, at present, is third choice at Hull and yet to play this season. Two years ago, he was summoned to a training camp by then coach Leo Beenhakker and quickly released after the technical staff decided he was not better than the three local goalkeepers, which included incumbent custodian Clayton Ince.

Warner supposedly twice rejected call-ups during the infamous "blacklist" period but might have some time on his hands these days and apparently fancies a World Cup qualifying cap.

Johnson, a quick but uncomplicated winger, won the last of his four caps six years ago in a 2-1 loss to St Kitts under caretaker coach Clayton Morris and the level of his employment at present does not quite scream "progress" on his part.

"It is not a sin to have a look at a player," said Maturana, when asked about the choices.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the mantra for curious children is "look but don't touch".

Surely Maturana did not need to involve paying patrons and the Trinidad and Tobago uniform in his experiment. When England coach Fabio Capello wants to know how Darren Bent is doing, he does not offer the striker a World Cup run out against Ukraine. He watches Tottenham play instead and, if suitably impressed, invites him to a friendly game for further evaluation.

Maturana's decision to do otherwise arguably cheapens the value of the national shirt, particularly for players like Ataullah Guerra, Lyndon Diaz, Marvin Oliver, Conrad Smith, Cleon John, Matthew Bartholomew and Trent Noel who are desperate for a chance in the "red, white and black" strip.

Maturana has already dabbled with school boys and pensioners on his team sheet. It seems that blind dates offer the latest rush.

It is, of course, not an intended slur on the capabilities of Warner, Johnson or anyone else wearing national colours on November 19. Rather, football fans may like to know that, when they fork out up to $500 to see their team, the deliberation behind its selection is more complex than "why not?"

There were some other sentiments expressed by Maturana that raised eyebrows.

He explained the team's concentration lapses with a flippant "our race doesn't like to concentrate for long".

If it was a joke, it was a poor and ill-timed one particularly considering the present global euphoria over the election of the United States' first black president, Barack Obama.

Maturana, a qualified dentist, is an educated man and should be more careful in the way he makes his points.

Maturana also suggested that the Warriors' off-colour performance might have something to do with the players being homesick at the Crowne Plaza.

It is a small wonder then that Beenhakker's boys did not hop on the nearest plane for Piarco after two months in Europe in the build-up to the 2006 World Cup.

For Maturana's sake, it is best that we stick to his team sheets which have always been a thing of wonder. On Sunday, after the two-time World Cup coach insisted that he would not stray from a four-man defence, the TTFF released a team supposedly picked by the Colombian that comprised four central defenders and one right back.

"I did not pick any team," said Maturana, through his translator.

For once, Maturana was as surprised as everyone else by the composition of the national squad. It was probably always just a matter of time.