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To Russia with love: Beenhakker targets 2018 World Cup

Former World Cup 2006 coach “Don” Leo Beenhakker returned to Trinidad and Tobago last night and is already encouraging local football fans to start looking ahead to the Russia 2018 World Cup as the national football team aims to maintain momentum after its 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup showing.

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago national football team celebrates a goal against El Salvador. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago national football team celebrates a goal against El Salvador.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

The “Soca Warriors” were eliminated from the Gold Cup at the quarterfinal stage on Saturday night after a 1-0 loss to Mexico in Atlanta. And Beenhakker, who is also the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) director of football, believes that local football stakeholders must start immediately to build towards the next FIFA showpiece tournament.

“I’m sure some of the people think well that’s five years and it’s a long time,” Beenhakker told the TTFA Media, “but, in life, five years is a long time (whereas) in football five years is nothing.

“So if you want to have this goal of going to the World Cup then you have to start now with the development of youth teams to bring them to a higher level.”

Beenhakker and new coach Stephen Hart accepted their new portfolios with just three weeks to go before the Gold Cup. The former Real Madrid and Netherlands international coach felt the team improved as the competition progressed.

He singled out utility player Joevin Jones and midfielder Kevin Molino as examples of the fresh talent available to the Warriors and said he looks forward to helping them grow as players.

Photo: Former World Cup 206 coach Leo Beenhakker (right) makes a point to 21-year-old Trinidad and Tobago utility player Joevin Jones. (Courtesy TTFA Media)
Photo: Former World Cup 206 coach Leo Beenhakker (right) makes a point to 21-year-old Trinidad and Tobago utility player Joevin Jones.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

“I have to say it was difficult at the start but you can see in general they were growing in the tournament (and) they were doing better and better,” said Beenhakker. “It’s more or less the same history, especially with the younger guys and I had the same experience in 2005/2006. Younger guys like Joevin Jones and Kevin Molino and others in this category; you can see they all have a lot of talent but they still make too many mistakes and I think they can be much better.

“They have the quality and potential so I am very interested in returning to Trinidad in that way and having a bit more knowledge of how they work with these young guys… The main thing is what we, the responsible people of the football of T&T, the management and coaches, are doing with (the players).”

Beenhakker suggested that Trinidad and Tobago must focus on developing players who can fit into the pace of the modern game and are able to perform under pressure and avoid unforced errors in controlling, passing and moving off the ball.

“Football is on the move,” he said. “If you compare it with the last ten years you can see every year is much quicker with less time. If you want to play a certain role in international football then you have to develop the younger players in that way.”

Photo: Rising Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino (centre) reacts after scoring Trinidad and Tobago's second goal in a 2-0 win over Honduras. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Rising Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino (centre) reacts after scoring Trinidad and Tobago’s second goal in a 2-0 win over Honduras.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

Beenhakker hopes the Warriors’ showing at the Gold Cup improves their relationship with local football fans and serves as a spur for their ambitions.

“We have to look for international success,” he said. “The only way to get that (is) to go back to the training pitch almost every day (and) prepare yourself; not only in technical way but also in mental and physical preparation.

“I assure you the talent is there but we have to work a lot more especially with the younger generation and the ultimate goal again is to be present in the World Cup 2018.”

AboutLasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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5 comments

  1. While we wait and hope our Soca Warriors just turn the corner for 2018, check this out and laf yuh belly full

  2. I agree encouraging statements yes but I do hope that the Don also puts pressure on the new TTFA to treat our home base players and assistant Coaches like real professionals with regards to getting their well deserving monies and what other incentives on time. I am a firm believer in keeping our players and Coaches happy and they will give their all and we shall rise again.

    • Yes Mango but remember, our TTFA is really not self-sufficient, it depends on the Government and that in itself is a lot of Red-Tape, as we have seen in the past. I am sure that “Don Leo” will turn some of these average Pro League players into better players, as with everything, it takes time and he needs time. Nothing happens overnight that’s why he should have been given the Job years ago. But, better late than never, so lets hope someone takes over his role when he decides to depart and i hope that this person learns along the way. There are not many Great Teachers like Beenhakker left. And don’t worry Mango, this Federation will get matters correct off-the-field, don’t worry.

  3. Again, telling it like it is. I expect nothing less from Leo Beenhakker and he is 100% correct in saying that football is changing. We have gone backwards as a football-nation since our World Cup Appearance in 2006 and the TTFF (TTFA) should have made moves to install “Don Leo” in a position to oversee the Development of Football in T&T and he would have been working in tandem with his former Assistant who took over as Head Coach and trust me, we would have been far more advanced. But as the saying goes, “everything happens for a reason”, so over to you Mr. Tim Kee, Please utilise Mr. Beenhakker properly.

  4. Encouraging statements coming from ‘The Don’s’ lips to us- Football Lovers of T&T; no doubt made in sincerity. But I must remind him candidly that no football team proudly representing it’s country at sport’s greatest showpiece, gives it’s most talismanic player a ‘cobo sweat.’ Respect to all our talented & dedicated coaches & players-past, present & future.