“We will come to the point (where we would be) very disappointed with a result like that,” said joint Trinidad and Tobago national head coach Jamaal Shabazz, in the post-game press conference. “It’s not bad for now. But we have to be more ambitious as a people going forward (from here).”
It seemed a fair summary of last night’s friendly international fixture between Trinidad and Tobago and Peru in front of roughly 4,000 spectators at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
The “Soca Warriors” gave a fair account of themselves and troubled Peru at times but the final 2-0 score did not flatter the South American visitors.
“We are a little disappointed (with the result) but it is a new team,” said Trinidad and Tobago and Stoke City forward Kenwyne Jones. “We’re very happy with what we’re trying to do.”
The Warriors appear to be moving in the right direction but it is a slow process. Perhaps this is the way it is supposed to be.
Shabazz remarked after the game that he could not tell the difference between local and foreign-based players in “red, white and black” tonight.
It was meant to be a compliment for the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League players like Defence Force winger Kevon Carter, Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA midfielder Ataullah Guerra and DIRECTV W Connection central defender Daneil Cyrus, who all gave commanding performances.
But it must be acknowledged too that Trinidad and Tobago can no longer simply inject Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy into the squad to mask its deficiencies.
There are no more supposed saviours in the FIFA and CONCACAF offices either to arrange fixtures with bidding nations or do whatever else might have been done behind closed doors.
There are just a bunch of young men with varying gifts led by an enthusiastic and bold but relatively inexperienced coaching trio who are all working hard to create something memorable for Trinidad and Tobago.
At the Caribbean Cup finals in Antigua, the Warriors progressed through collectivity and grit. Last night, the Warriors gave the first indication, albeit in flashes, that they had more to offer.
Guerra’s poise and bravery in possession and Carter’s electrifying pace drew the most cheers. But it was the axis of central defenders Carlyle Mitchell and Cyrus and holding midfielder Khaleem Hyland that arguably shone brightest.
Mitchell, Cyrus and Hyland were like three deep-lying playmakers. They shuffled the ball back and forth, worked wall passes with their full backs, danced around Peru’s half-hearted offensive press and waited patiently for the right moment to go forward.
“Sometimes we kept the ball and kept the ball when we could have gone forward,” said Shabazz, who suggested that his defensive trio had over-indulged at times.
Yet, it was within the cagey, opening 20-minute period that the Warriors conjured up their best opportunity.
As the Peruvians were drawn forward, Warriors captain Densill Theobald stole possession and quickly relayed the ball forward to Guerra, at the halfline, who stepped inside one defender and lowered his left shoulder but lengthened his stride in the other direction to glide past another.
Jones made an angled run to his left and Guerra slipped the ball perfectly into his stride in Peru’s penalty box.
The big striker had time and space but he opened his body and tried to hit the ball first time and connected with only fresh air.
The Trinidad and Tobago supporters were in uproar.
It is hard to understand the influence of supporters unless you attend a game in a more traditional football nation.
In Spain, fans often cheer at five-yard sideways passes, which play a vital role in the subsequent attack. British crowds support effort, which will reap dividends over the course of 90 minutes.
Trinidad and Tobago patrons generally applaud only when something interesting appears to be happening like the dribbles, long forward passes or efforts at goal. They acknowledge the frills and the end result but often ignore the building process.
Did the roar from the local supporters prompt the Warriors to go forward quicker? Or was it the glimpse of Peru’s vulnerability under attack?
Either way, Guerra’s solo excursion did not set the tone for a period of dominance. The effect was, arguably, the opposite.
Jones seemed to be struggling to keep his footing or being crowded out while Guerra, the most advanced of the three central midfielders, lacks the upper body strength to play with his back to an opponent. So Trinidad and Tobago’s efforts at quicker attacks led, for the most part, to a more rapid turnover of possession.
And, unsurprisingly, the more fluent and experienced Peru team took advantage of the opened game in the 29th minute.
Mitchell could only head a left side cross as far as Jefferson Farfan, on the edge of the area, who crashed a powerful low volley goalward. Trinidad and Tobago custodian Marvin Phillip fended away his effort but only in the path of Peru captain and Bayern Munich employee Claudio Pizarro who made no mistake from close range.
Four minutes later, Peru nearly doubled its advantage but for a flying save from Phillip, who pushed a Rinaldo Cruzado effort over the bar.
Trinidad and Tobago regained composure and made a strong start to the second half with Carter taking turns in tormenting either full back. But Peru, who held a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina team to a 1-1 draw last September, knows how to bend without breaking and there were no more clear scoring opportunities for the host team.
Both teams used seven substitutes in the second half, which affected the game’s flow for the final 30 minutes. Trinidad and Tobago suffered most for the personnel changes and was punished for an inability to keep the ball in the final 10 minutes.
Cruzado, who gave a classy performance in central midfield, drifted past a half-hearted challenge before rifling a clinical 20-yard drive past substitute goalkeeper and North East Stars captain Cleon John in the 86th minute.
Substitute Andre Carrillo should have notched a third, two minutes later, but skied a straightforward opportunity from inside the area after being teed up by Corinthians striker Paolo Guerrero.
Peru settled for a 2-0 triumph at the final whistle, which snapped a run of four games without a win.
The Warriors had less tangible evidence of their night’s work but they had reason for optimism as well.
Carter and Guerra’s positive showing should provide impetus and a gauge for aspiring Pro League players, although both can still improve their final ball. Jones was mobile, committed and a handful in the air though he missed his one chance and there was a lack of variety in the aerial service to him.
Elsewhere, Sheldon Bateau and Carlos Edwards fitted in seamlessly at left and right back respectively while Roberts and Theobald were also solid without necessarily distinguishing themselves. Bateau might have had the toughest challenge against the fleet-footed Schalke winger Jefferson Farfan but generally coped well.
“It is a work in progress,” said co-head coach Hutson Charles, after the match.
The triangle of Cyrus, Mitchell and Hyland looked closer to the finished product, though. They played in defensive positions but their poise, patience and vigilance set the platform for Trinidad and Tobago’s offense.
It might not be enough to get excited about but there was surely enough to provoke encouragement.
“We have been on a downward spiral since 2008,” said Jones. “Now we’re trying to rebuild.”
There are unlikely to be any quick fixes this time. But the glimpses of patient, thoughtful play last night suggested that Trinidad and Tobago’s foundation is well on its way.
Trinidad and Tobago (using 4-1-4-1 system): 1.Marvin Phillip (21.Cleon John 73); 11.Carlos Edwards (second vice-captain), 17.Daneil Cyrus (6.Kareem Moses 83), 19.Carlyle Mitchell, 4.Sheldon Bateau; 8.Khaleem Hyland (13.Curtis Gonzales 73); 12.Darryl Roberts (2.Aubrey David 63), 18.Densill Theobald (captain) (14.Keyon Edwards 68), 7.Ataullah Guerra, 15.Kevon Carter (16.Jemel Sebro 76); 9.Kenwyne Jones (vice-captain) (10.Devorn Jorsling 73).
Coach: Hutson Charles/ Jamaal Shabazz
Peru (using 4-1-4-1 system): 1.Raul Fernandez (12.Diego Penny 46); 13.Renzo Revoredo (23.Roberto Guizasola 46), 5.Carlos Zambrano, 2.Alberto Rodriguez (15.Christian Ramos 43), 19.Yoshimar Yuton; 17.Carlos Lobaton (22.Edwin Retamoso 73); 10.Jefferson Farfan (16.Juan Marino 60), 8.Rinaldo Cruzado, 20.Luis Ramirez, 24.Junior Ross (9.Paolo Guerrero (vice captain) 46), 14.Claudio Pizarro (captain) (18.Andre Carrillo 60).
Unused substitutes: 4.Aurelio Saco-Vertiz, 25.Alfredo Rojas.
Coach: Serio Markarian
Referee: Adrian Skeete (Barbados)
(6 February 2013)
Trinidad and Tobago 0, Peru 2 (Claudio Pizarro 29, Rinaldo Cruzado 86) at Couva