Trinidad and Tobago national joint head coach Jamaal Shabazz declared, via press officer Shaun Fuentes, that last night’s goalless draw against Belize produced some impressive individual performances from the “Soca Warriors” and will provide selection headaches in the future.
Shabazz, a founding member of Pro League team Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA and former Guyana international coach, credited the Warriors for their discipline and structure against a Belize team ranked 132nd in the world but heading to its first CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament along with Trinidad and Tobago.
“I thought we played against a well-organized team and they were good on the counter attack,” Shabazz told the TTFF media. “We saw some good areas in our team in terms of us still maintaining the discipline in being able to put the ball on the ground and play out of the back and our possession is improving.
“But it was difficult conditions for us to play under especially with a hard, bumpy surface and we did well to come away with a draw.”
Port Vale midfielder Chris Birchall, a former 2006 World Cup player but often an unused substitute for the England League Two side, came in for particular praise for his accurate distribution from open play and set pieces. Birchall played 90 minutes against Belize and Shabazz cooed that the 28-year-old player has a future with the Warriors.
“Chris Birchall definitely brought something to the table,” said Shabazz. “He brought a lot of tactical discipline, simplicity in his play and this guy is a warrior. This guy has a place in this squad under us and we were impressed with his performance today.”
Versatile DIRECTV W Connection player Joevin Jones, who is the Pro League’s most dynamic midfielder at present, was used at left back yesterday and Shabazz said his combinations with left-sided midfielder Keon Daniel was one of the country’s highlights.
“We saw Joevin Jones combined very well with Keon Daniel on the left and created some problems for the opposition,” said the Trinidad and Tobago coach, “and this was something we saw coming out of the training sessions.
“We thought the right side did go to sleep today but we saw some very interesting combinations.”
There was praise too for Daniel and another returning 2006 World Cup player Cornell Glen.
“Cornell Glen worked very hard and made some timely runs,” said Shabazz. “The balls did not come early out of the back enough for him though. And Keon Daniel showed very good tactical discipline. The aspect of his game that has improved tremendously is his recovery when we lose the ball.”
Twenty-one-year-old Point Fortin Civic Centre midfielder Marcus Joseph was a controversial pick after Shabazz said, last year, that he wanted to stick with Pro League players. But he insisted that Joseph proved his worth and he also commended Central FC midfielders Jason Marcano and Darren Mitchell who were both substitutes.
“Marcus showed in the 20 minutes that he got that he is right there,” said Shabazz, “and Jason Marcano showed he is able to play at this level also and young Mitchell also got in some touches.
“All in all it gives us a lot more competition for spots and a good headache for coaches to have.”
Read report on the game here