Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Under-20 Team head coach Angus Eve opened his post-match press conference with a reference to the age of his players, as he tried to explain last night’s 4-4 draw with Haiti in the 2022 Concacaf Under-20 Championship.
Haiti initially sought to withdraw from the Concacaf tournament and only began training roughly two weeks ago, while the Haitian Football Federation hired coach Angelo Jean-Baptiste on Thursday 16 June—just three days before their opening match.
Eve said the most noteworthy thing about the Junior Soca Warriors squad was the ages of his players.
“I thought the guys did really well,” Eve told the TTFA Media. “It is pointed to note that we have the youngest team in here. A lot of the guys are 17 now turning 18 and a lot of the [Haiti] guys are just more mature than them.
“And you saw the immaturity of our guys at some times, in the type of plays they would have made. But all in all I am very proud of them…”
Eve’s suggestion that his players were younger than their opponents last night and one of the youngest teams in the tournament was unprompted, and totally incorrect. In fact, it was the exact opposite of the truth.
Trinidad and Tobago have the joint sixth oldest team in the Concacaf tournament along with the United States while, according to the Transfermarkt website, Eve’s starting team yesterday was the fifth oldest used by any nation so far in the competition.
Haiti, who had seven 17-year-olds in their XI, had the youngest starting team of the tournament at an average age of 17.5. Eve in contrast had two 17-year-olds in his first choice squad, which averaged 18.2—and both of Trinidad and Tobagos substitutes, Real Gill and Andrew De Gannes, are 19.
Haiti’s scorers yesterday, Watz Leazard, Steevenson Jeudy and Bryan Destin, were 18, 17 and 16 respectively. Trinidad and Tobago got their goals from the 19-year-old pair of Kaihim Thomas and Real Gill and the 18-year-old Nathaniel James.
Does it matter? Maybe not. But it continues a worrying trend of being loose with the facts by the joint Men’s National Senior Team and Under-20 Team head coach.
In a pre-match exchange with Guyana coach Jamaal Shabazz, Eve quipped that the two men were on opposite sides of a historic battle during the 1990 attempted coup—with the former an insurrectionist and the latter a soldier. Only Eve was a student at Mucurapo Senior Comprehensive at the time.
In the build up to their Concacaf Nations League match away to St Vincent and the Grenadines, Eve declared that “the pitch is a good pitch, the best pitch I’ve seen that we will actually play on—there is no excuses”. (Check minute 3:07.) The following day, he called it “a difficult pitch”. (Check minute 0.27.)
He cut assistant coach Hutson Charles last October on the supposed grounds that he needed to free up money to hire a data analyst. But did not return to Charles when he hired coaches for the national under-20 team—although the Defence Force coach was assistant to Zoran Vranes when Trinidad and Tobago last qualified for a Fifa Under-20 World Cup in 2009.
There were raised eyebrows too when Eve said his team won in a “hostile environment” in St Vincent, despite the hosts being nowhere close to filling the stands of their 18,000 seat venue. And when he insisted that the Soca Warriors did not play for a draw in Nicaragua, despite conflicting narratives from his assistant Reynold Carrington and captain Marvin Phillip.
On at least one occasion, there was internal angst over Eve’s seemingly contradictory statements after he dropped experienced midfielder Joevin Jones for not being match fit on Sunday 5 June and then tried to recall him for international duty, two days later.
“Why would you call a player who you think is not match fit?” Jones asked. “[…] For me, that doesn’t make sense. Things are not adding up.”
A self-professed fan of iconic Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho, Eve’s press conferences are certainly no less entertaining than those from the self-declared “Special One”.
Although, to be fair, Eve generally restricts himself to one “loosener” per interview. And there could be no argument when he described last night’s contest as a “soap opera” or suggested that Trinidad and Tobago “had all of the momentum” when the match officials temporarily stopped the game due to bad weather.
The Junior Soca Warriors were leading 4-3 at the time and substitutes Gill and De Gannes were causing pandemonium in the opposing defence. Haiti, who he described as “a very good team” got the only goal after the resumption to level scores.
“I think the few times that we put down the ball, you could see that we could play [and] we could match with the other teams,” said Eve. “Nathaniel James just turned 18 yesterday and he scored two wonderful goals. The guys who came on, Real Gill [and] De Gannes, they were fantastic—they fit in like normal.
“And also you saw the versatility in the guys. Kai [Thomas] went at right back [from right midfield].
“We scored really good goals.”
Trinidad and Tobago face an older Mexico team from 10.30pm tomorrow in an intriguing match-up at San Pedro Sula.
Mexico dismantled Suriname 8-0 yesterday and looked to comfortably be the best nation in Group F. However, Eve is generally at his best as the underdog and the most memorable result of his current reign is a goalless draw with “El Tricolor” at the Concacaf 2021 Gold Cup.
Regardless, Thursday’s encounter against Suriname is surely the more important game for Trinidad and Tobago and, like at the Gold Cup, Eve might turn to his substitutes tomorrow—so as to keep key players fresh for their final group fixture.
Three from the four Group F nations will advance to the knockout stage. Trinidad and Tobago could feasibly progress with just a draw against Suriname.
And, in case you are wondering, Suriname have the third youngest team in the competition.