Fortune might have smiled on the Trinidad and Tobago national senior team in Chicago today as the “Soca Warriors” arguably received its best draw ever at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which has also become remarkably generous to its participants in the 2013 edition.
There are 12 nations in the Gold Cup finals, which kicks off on 7 July 2013 at the Rose Bowl. But only three will be eliminated in the first round while nine teams will progress to the quarterfinal stage.
In short, it is harder to be eliminated from the Gold Cup than it is to progress.
And, best of all, the Trinidad and Tobago team , the Caribbean Cup runner-up, has somehow ended up with three nations, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti, that it has enjoyed favourable results against in the recent past.
In contrast, Group C pits host nation the United States against Central American champion, Costa Rica and Caribbean conqueror, Cuba, as well as Belize. Defending Gold Cup champion, Mexico, heads Group A which also includes Panama, Canada and Martinique.
Trinidad and Tobago has a superior head to head record against El Salvador and Haiti over the last 10 years while the tiny two-island republic is undefeated after two Gold Cup meetings with Honduras in the CONCACAF showcase tournament.
“It’s a good group,” Trinidad and Tobago joint head coach Hutson “Barber” Charles told the TTFF Media. “These are opponents we have competed well against in the past. And I feel that once we prepare well and have our best team possible on the pitch then we can definitely fancy our chances of getting positive results and progressing beyond the group stage…
“We have a program to follow with the build-up in terms of our line-up of international friendlies and the players we are looking at and we intend to stay focused and work hard towards ensuring we stick to our plans.”
Trinidad and Tobago has played in seven Gold Cup tournaments but only ever advanced to the knock-out stage in the 2000 competition when coach Bertille St Clair led to the team to the semi-finals. Since the remaining two nations were guests from other confederations, Trinidad and Tobago effectively finished second among the CONCACAF nations.
St Clair was immediately fired from his post by then special advisor Jack Warner and replaced by now deceased Scotsman Ian Porterfield.
Charles was present at today’s Gold Cup draw in Chicago along with team manager William Wallace and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) president Raymond Tim Kee.
The Warriors started their Gold Cup preparations with a 2-0 loss to Peru at Couva on 7 February 2013 while they face Belize and Peru on March 22 and 26 respectively.
Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA midfielder Densill Theobald, who is the most experienced current national player with 88 caps, also expressed his appreciation for the draw.
“No group is an easy one but I feel good about this group with Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras,” said Theobald.
Arguably, the most difficult aspect of the Gold Cup group stage is the air miles.
The Trinidad and Tobago team opens its Gold Cup Group B campaign in New Jersey on July 8 when it faces El Salvador at the Red Bull Arena
The Warriors will then travel to Miami to face Haiti at the Sunlife Stadium on July 12 before meeting Honduras at the BBVA Stadium in Houston on July 15.
2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup groups
GROUP A: Mexico, Panama, Canada, Martinique
GROUP B: Honduras, El Salvador, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti
GROUP C: USA, Costa Rica, Belize, Cuba
Group B Schedule
Monday, July 8 – Red Bull Arena (Harrison, NJ)
El Salvador vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 7 p.m. (7 p.m. EDT)
Haiti vs. Honduras, 9:30 p.m. (9:30 p.m. EDT)
Friday, July 12 – Sun Life Stadium (Miami, FL)
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Haiti, 7 p.m. (7 p.m. EDT)
Honduras vs. El Salvador, 9:30 p.m. (9:30 p.m. EDT)
Monday, July 15 – BBVA Compass Stadium (Houston, TX)
El Salvador vs. Haiti, 6 p.m. (7 p.m. EDT)
Honduras vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 8:30 p.m. (9:30 p.m. EDT)
Head to Head
(Tabulated as played-won-drew-lost-goals for-goals against)
Against El Salvador
Editor’s Note: Trinidad and Tobago met Honduras twice in the Gold Cup and won 3-1 in 1998 and drew 1-1 in 2005. However, the Warriors lost both Gold Cup clashes with El Salvador 3-2 in 1998 and 2-1 in 2007.