Even victory against the Dominican Republic tomorrow evening might not be enough to salvage Trinidad and Tobago’s 2012 Caribbean Cup aspirations.
The “Soca Warriors” tackle the Dominican Republic from 5 pm at the Antigua Recreation Ground in St John’s but, regardless of the possible size of their victory, the dual island republic will be eliminated if Haiti and Antigua and Barbuda play to a draw in the second fixture, which kicks off at 7 pm.
Tournament organisers confirmed to Wired868 that head-to-head results will be the first tiebreaker used to separate teams at the Caribbean Cup. Trinidad and Tobago lost 2-0 to Antigua on Sunday and drew goalless with Haiti last Friday.
At present, Haiti has four points, Antigua and the Dominican Republic both have three and Trinidad and Tobago has one.
Trinidad and Tobago will qualify with a win plus a Haitian triumph. If Antigua defeats Haiti, the Warriors will need a victory by three clear goals to be sure of advancing to the knock-out round.
“We are still in with a chance and we believe and we believe,” said joint Trinidad and Tobago head coach Jamaal Shabazz, at a post-game press conference posted online by the TTFF media. “We’re disappointed but our heads are not down. We pick ourselves up and go again.
“This is the challenge in football; this is the challenge in sport.”
Trinidad and Tobago has failed to register a goal so far in the tournament despite using all four strikers. And, in a TV6 interview earlier today, North East Stars coach Angus Eve publicly questioned the omission of striker Cornell Glen, who is the Pro League’s leading scorer this term.
Eve pointed out that both forwards used from the start at the Caribbean Cup thus far are short of match practise as Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA striker Jamal Gay is just returning from injury while Song Lam Nghe player Willis Plaza is in his off-season.
Shabazz claimed that Slovan Bratislava attacker Lester Peltier is out with a recurring hamstring injury while Hughtun Hector, who is also set to join Song Lam Nghe, is unavailable due to an instep injury.
Ironically, last week, Shabazz called for more stringent examination of the physical readiness of foreign-based players before team selection. It is uncertain whether he compromised his own beliefs, changed his mind after consultation with his co-coach Hutson “Barber” Charles or was simply unlucky.
However, the former Guyana and Caledonia AIA coach insisted that his team will rise to the challenge.
“We are happy for the opportunity to be able to compete under difficult conditions,” he said. “This is part of how people grow; this is part of the challenge of sport… The guys are disappointed but we still feel we have a chance.
“We are going to put everything in it.”
Shabazz explained that he will consult with Charles before deciding whether Trinidad and Tobago would start with two strikers tomorrow. In truth, the Warriors have many more conundrums.
Midfield lynchpin Densill Theobald has done yeoman service as a playmaker but regaining the possession is not his strength and the Warriors lacked a physical presence in central midfield against Antigua.
W Connection midfielder Clyde Leon was overlooked for the tour while the United States-based pair of Chris Birchall and Kevan George were ruled out for varying reasons. Would Defence Force utility player Curtis Gonzales be promoted to serve as Theobald’s bodyguard?
The Warriors used different wide combinations for their last three competitive games and Hector’s unavailability will force yet another change. Will Charles and Shabazz go for the speed of Kevon Carter, the technical ability of Ataullah Guerra or give another chance to the gifted but out-of-form Kevin Molino?
Might Molino be better utilised in a free role behind a striker or will a conventional two-pronged attack be favoured? And will Devorn Jorsling, the ninth most prolific Trinidad and Tobago all-time international scorer, finally regain his starting berth, which he lost despite scoring in his last start against St Vincent and the Grenadines in October?
Trinidad and Tobago last met the Dominican Republic in a friendly four years ago at the Hasely Crawford Stadium and humiliated its guest 9-0. Goalkeeper Miguel Lloyd might shudder at the memory while former W Connection striker Jonathan Fana Frias was little more than a spectator to the mauling.
None of Trinidad and Tobago’s current Caribbean Cup players featured in that lopsided win over the Spanish-speaking islanders. Glen was a second half substitute in that fixture and scored a hattrick in just under 30 minutes. But, of course, he is not in Antigua to help out.
Shabazz would hope for new heroes to emerge tomorrow.
“I’m not afraid to face the reality; the staff is not afraid to face the reality,” said the Trinidad and Tobago coach. “Our backs are against the wall and we have to come out fighting.
“It is a situation that is not great to be in. But great teams become great teams because they are able to come out of tight and difficult situations.”
TT (4-1-3-1-1): 1.Jan-Michael Williams (capt); 17.Daneil Cyrus, 20.Seon Power, 5.Carlyle Mitchell, 2.Aubrey David; 4.Curtis Gonzales; 8.Ataullah Guerra, 18.Densill Theobald, 3.Joevin Jones; 10.Kevin Molino; 9.Devorn Jorsling.
Substitutes: 21.Marvin Phillip, 6.Kareem Moses, 11.Kevon Carter, 13.Richard Roy, 14.Willis Plaza, 15.Jamal Gay, 16.Keyon Edwards.
Unavailable: 7.Hughtun Hector, 12.Lester Peltier.
Coaches: Hutson Charles/Jamaal Shabazz
2012 Caribbean Cup
(Tue December 11)
Trinidad and Tobago v Dominican Republic, 5 pm, Antigua Recreation Ground,
Antigua and Barbuda v Haiti, 7 pm, Antigua Recreation Ground.[standings league_id=8 template=extend logo=true]