The Trinidad and Tobago national senior football team spent Friday night enjoying the warmth and culture of Saudi Arabia as the “Soca Warriors” were guests at the Al Masmac Palace of King Abdul Aziz in Riyadh.
Tomorrow at 11.45 am (T&T time), the Warriors will try to repay their generosity by snatching third place in the 2013 OSN Cup from the host team and hopping on the next plane out of Riyadh.
“Definitely (Saudi Arabia) will want to end the tournament with a victory because they are the host country,” Warriors captain and Stoke City forward Kenwyne Jones told the TTFA Media. “But we also did not make the trip to just come here and play just for the sake of it.
“I think our current bunch of players are ambitious in terms of what they want to achieve in the game and that was demonstrated by the way we fought back to try and avoid the loss in the previous match.”
The Warriors lost 7-6 on penalty kicks against the United Arab Emirates last Thursday after they fought back from a three-goal deficit to hold the Arab team at 3-3 by the final whistle.
Jones scored a regulation time penalty against the UAE for his third goal in his last five international appearances. It brought his total haul in the red, white and black strip to 10 goals from 56 full internationals (between FIFA-recognised nations).
Subtract the 14 appearances Jones made at either full back or in a midfield role and his goals per game ratio is just over one ever four outings and heading towards respectability. The pep in the step of Jones, Trinidad and Tobago’s most high profile player at present, has been one of the highlights of coach Stephen Hart’s stewardship thus far.
Hart aims to continue the Warriors’ resurgence against Saudi Arabia tomorrow, although he stressed that his aim is the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
“This match gives us another good chance to come together as a team… and to see how well we put things into practice and perspective on the field of play,” said Hart. “We had a couple more days to settle in after the first match… and we will try to start more positively and we would have known what to expect in terms of the conditions heading into the game itself.
“Of course we are building for our future engagements as well, which is centered around the qualification for 2018. So we will try to maximize every opportunity to have a look at the players in our pool and at the same time try to put the best team on the pitch with the intention of finding the right combination.”
Under Hart, in regulation time, the Warriors have managed one victory, two draws and two defeats against Honduras, El Salvador, UAE, Haiti and Mexico.
Trinidad and Tobago has played Saudi Arabia three before and lost on each occasion with 3-2 and 1-0 defeats in 1994 and a 2-1 loss in 1998.
Jones and his men hope for a different result tomorrow as they go about rebuilding the Warriors’ international image.
“Every game is an additional cap and experience for us and we are working towards putting the country back into a respectable position on the world football map,” said Jones, a former 2006 World Cup player, “and a good result on Monday will obviously be a boost to that effort.”