The Trinidad and Tobago national football team should be near to full strength in June when the “Soca Warriors” expect a rigorous test from 2014 World Cup-bound teams Colombia, Argentina and Iran in friendly fixtures.
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) confirmed today that it will face Colombia on June 1 in Buenos Aires as a precursor to outings against Argentina on June 4 in La Plata and Iran on June 8 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Head coach Stephen Hart expressed concern previously that he might be forced to field a weakened squad as the games are outside the FIFA match window and leagues in the United States, Canada and parts of Eastern Europe would still be ongoing.
However, assistant coach Derek King revealed that the staff has received positive responses from most of the foreign-based players and expects a near full strength team.
“We have already gotten positive word from the guys in Finland and most of the other players in Europe for the game,” King told Wired868. “We are hoping to get Carlyle (Mitchell) too as he is not getting much playing time at the moment (with Vancouver Whitecaps).”
Unquestionably, it will be a major step up for Mitchell and company to tangle with the likes of Colombia striker Radamel Falcao, who hopes to recover from injury in time for the World Cup, and Argentina sensation Lionel Messi. The Warriors have not been together since a friendly against Jamaica last November and must now start 2014 against Colombia more than six months later.
King revealed that the team is scheduled to go into camp from May 19 and they will use this time to prepare for the tough challenges ahead. It will be the longest time that Hart has had with his squad since the pre-2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup camp.
On that occasion, Hart was getting to know the players while simultaneously screening for his Gold Cup squad. This time, he can pick his best team straight away and spend more time focusing on tactics.
TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee described the upcoming games as the Trinidad and Tobago’s own World Cup group.
“This is by every means our World Cup group and I think it speaks volumes of our ability as a country and as an association,” Tim Kee told the TTFA media, “to line up matches of this calibre against three world class opponents.
“The last time our country had such a schedule would have been in our build-up to the 2006 World Cup…”
TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips, a former match agent, was said to be instrumental in orchestrating the high profile matches and suggested that the experience to be gained outweighed the chance of being embarrassed.
“We want to give our national teams and players the best opportunities possible when it comes to preparation and experience,” said Phillips. “We think it says something about where we are heading with these teams giving us the opportunity to rub shoulders and to take them on over 90 minutes just prior to the World Cup.”
The Warriors are expected to use the June friendlies as warm-up matches for the 2014 Caribbean Cup tournament.
Trinidad and Tobago will host one of three qualifying groups from October 6 to 13 with the top two nations progressing, a month later, to the Caribbean Cup finals in Jamaica.
The qualifying group and Caribbean Cup finals will be held on FIFA international match days, which means that, for the first time, competing teams can be at full strength for the regional tournament.
Trinidad and Tobago finished second in the 2012 Caribbean Cup final after losing 1-0 to Cuba in extra time.