Football fans can catch the Trinidad and Tobago national football team’s glamorous upcoming international friendly against 2014 World Cup contenders, Argentina, live on Government Information Services Limited (GISL) Channel 4 from 3.30 pm on Wednesday June 4.
The “Soca Warriors” are scheduled to leave the Piarco International Airport at 9 am tomorrow for Buenos Aires where they will challenge FIFA’s seventh ranked international team at the Estadio Monumental. The game is expected to be broadcast live in 92 countries.
Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president Raymond Tim Kee compared the friendly to the Soca Warriors’ historic appearance at the Germany 2006 World Cup.
“This is something close to what we experienced during the 2006 World Cup in terms of where our country’s national flag will be seen and where the name Trinidad and Tobago will be announced for 90 plus minutes of football action,” Tim Kee told the TTFA Media. “That alone is a something very significant. My hopes are that we can produce a creditable showing regardless of the final result.”
Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones, who has scored six goals in nine internationals under present coach Stephen Hart, said his teammates are mentally ready for the challenge from the 2014 World Cup contender.
“We are happy to be going to play the game and we are going to put our best foot forward,” said Jones. “We’re focused and we intend to take that into the match. We’re not too bothered about who their coach is going to select in his starting team.
“We’ve been in camp since the 20th and… everyone seems in pretty good condition as we head into Argentina.”
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella can feasibly select a front three of multiple-FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and strikers Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero, who have a combined 79 goals from 170 international appearances.
In contrast, the Warriors’ expected attacking triangle of Jones, Willis Plaza and Kevin Molino accumulated 23 international goals from a total of 92 appearances against decidedly less vaunted opposition.
Jones, whose British employer Cardiff City was relegated from the England Premier League last season, might raise some eyebrows in Buenos Aires after his suggestion that the atmosphere at the Estadio Monumental is likely to be similar to away trips to Guatemala and Honduras.
“Of course it’s a big test to play Argentina; it’s no different to us going to play Guatemala or Honduras in Honduras,” said Jones, who represented the Warriors at the 2006 World Cup. “I think it’s going to be the same kind of atmosphere. Of course they are preparing for a World Cup and they have some of the world’s best players; but we are going to go there to try and improve on the things we have done in the past and also work on some new stuff.
“For us it’s all about moving forward with our preparation for the next World Cup campaign.”
The Monumental stadium holds 74,624 patrons which is almost as much as the combined attendances of Guatemala’s Estadio Mateo Flores (30,000) and Honduras’ Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano (50,325). But Jones might be trying to quiet any anxiety within his team’s ranks.
His namesake and DIRECTV W Connection utility player Joevin Jones, who already has 33 caps at the age of 22, insisted that Wednesday’s clash will be the highlight of his career thus far.
“I’ve been in some big games before but this has to be the biggest of my career,” Jones (J). “I’m just concentrating on my task. I’d like to play my part in trying to help the team give a strong showing.
“I’ll be thinking about everything that I have to do on match-day over the next few days.”
The Warriors are weakened by the late withdrawal of 2006 World Cup veteran and England-based utility player Carlos Edwards, due to unspecified personal reasons.
“I’m a bit disappointed because I had all intentions of traveling with the team,” said Edwards. “Unfortunately a matter came up which has forced me to sit out this one. I’m rooting for the boys and I’ll be definitely cheering them on from home on Wednesday.”
Hart will still have 22 players to choose from as Columbus Crew midfielder Kevan George, who spent the last month on loan with USA lower league team Dayton Dutch Lions, was allowed to travel by his parent club.
The Warriors will follow up Wednesday’s fixture by travelling to Sao Paulo, Brazil to tackle Iran on Sunday June 8.
Edwards’ pull-out, which was preceded by Daneil Cyrus’ withdrawal, leaves Hart woefully short of specialist full backs.
Millwall’s Justin Hoyte is the only member of the travelling squad that plays that role for his club; and he has not had many chances over the last season. Hoyte managed five appearances whole season for the England Championship Division club and none this year.
Hart is likely to compensate by using either of Sheldon Bateau, Curtis Gonzales or Jones (J) in the vacant left back role. Jones (J), who is a playmaker with the local Pro League champion team, started at left back for Hart during the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Bateau, who is a good reader of the game but not particularly athletic, is generally used in central defence for Belgium top flight club, KV Mechelen, but did play there before for the Warriors; as has Defence Force midfield enforcer, Gonzales.
The Pro League has not offered many contenders for that role this term although uncapped W Connection teenager Alvin Jones, Joevin’s younger brother, may be disappointed to be ignored after an impressive debut senior season.
It could be a telling frailty against an Argentine team whose most gifted players, Messi, Aguero and Angel Di Maria, often cut in from the flanks to look for goals.
Aguero, the Manchester City star, is the joint highest scorer at the Estadio Monumental, alongside Higuain, from the present Argentina squad. However, the last of his eight goals at the venue came two years ago.
Aguero can be handful if in the mood.
The Warriors are at full strength in the midfield, though, where Khaleem Hyland and Andre Boucaud are likely to provide the steel in middle earth while Lester Peltier, Plaza, Molino and possibly Jones (J) will compete for three attacking roles behind their towering captain.
Hart lost just two from nine games since he accepted the post as head coach last June; exclusive of a penalty shoot-out loss to the United Arab Emirates last September. Both regulation time defeats came in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup against Haiti and Mexico respectively.
It would be an eye opening result if Hart and the Warriors manage to shut out a star studded Argentine cast next Wednesday.
(Trinidad and Tobago travelling team)
Soca Warriors: Jan Michael Williams (Central FC), Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic); Justin Hoyte (Millwall—England), Sheldon Bateau (KV Mechelen—Belgium), Gavin Hoyte (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Radanfah Abu Bakr (FK Kruoja Pakruojis—Lithuania), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Carlyle Mitchell (Vancouver Whitecaps—Canada), Yohance Marshall (Central FC); Khaleem Hyland (Racing Genk—Belgium), Andre Boucaud (unattached), Kevan George (Columbus Crew—US), Densill Theobald (Caledonia AIA), Lester Peltier (Slovan Bratislava—Slovakia), Joevin Jones (W Connection), Ataullah Guerra (Central FC), Kevin Molino (Orlando City—US); Marcus Joseph (Point Fortin Civic), Rundell Winchester, Willis Plaza (both Central FC), Trevin Caesar (North East Stars), Kenwyne Jones (Cardiff City).
Technical staff: Stephen Hart (Head Coach), Hutson Charles (Assistant Coach), Derek King (Assistant Coach), Michael Maurice (Goalkeeper Coach), William Wallace (Manager), David Muhammad (Manager), Peter Rampersad (Manager), Dave Isaac (Physiotherapist), Michael Williams (Equipment Manager), Israel Dowlat (Doctor), Shaun Fuentes (Press Officer).