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Warriors book Nicaragua for final pre-World Cup friendly

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart will finally get the chance to simulate a World Cup qualifying run, as the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) confirmed an international friendly against Nicaragua on October 13 in Trinidad.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Joevin Jones (right) in action against Panama in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Copyright AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Joevin Jones (right) in action against Panama in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

Hart has repeatedly asked for two exhibition games within a FIFA match window, so as to prepare his players for the Russia 2018 World Cup campaign which will comprise of one home and away fixture within four days for each round.

The “Soca Warriors” play their first qualifier away to Guatemala on November 13 followed by a home clash with the United States on November 17.

Next month, they will prepare for those competitive matches with friendlies away to Panama on October 8 and then at home to Nicaragua on October 13.

“It’s important for us to have a second game in this window and to keep playing games,” Hart told the TTFA Media. “Ideally this is a situation where we travel first and then have to return to play at home, which is similar to what we have to do in November. And that is one of the more important aspects for us.

“I will continue to experiment with the squad with the aim of getting the best selection for our two World Cup qualifying games in November because everything we do now is in relation to the those matches.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart (centre) makes a point while midfielders Ataulla Guerra (right) and Khaleem Hyland look on during a practice session in March. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart (centre) makes a point while midfielders Ataulla Guerra (right) and Khaleem Hyland look on during a practice session in March.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Hart is unlikely to be thrilled with facing Nicaragua, though. The Warriors coach, who led Trinidad and Tobago to successive CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal spots in 2013 and 2015, previously said he hoped to face a European opponent, whose style would more closely mirror that of the United States team.

The Nicaragua team, which is ranked 139th in the world, was already eliminated from the 2018 World Cup series. But not before providing Jamaica with a massive fright, as the Central American nation edged the “Reggae Boyz” 3-2 in Kingston but then succumbed to a 2-0 home defeat in the two-legged fixture.

The contest between Nicaragua and Trinidad and Tobago will be only the second home friendly for the Warriors this year and just the fifth since Raymond Tim Kee became TTFF president in late 2012.

During the same time frame, Trinidad and Tobago has played 11 FIFA-recognised international friendlies abroad.

The Nicaragua clash will also be the TTFA’s first home match that falls under the purview of new Sport Minister Darryl Smith. Tim Kee, who is the PNM Treasurer, had a fractious relationship with previous Sport Minister Brent Sancho, who is now subject to a TTFA probe into his business dealings with Pro League club, Central FC.

Photo: New Sport Minister Darryl Smith (left).
Photo: New Sport Minister Darryl Smith (left).

Hart is expected to announce his players to face Panama and Nicaragua next week and would hope to have the core of his World Cup squad available.

Central defender Sheldon Bateau, who skipped Trinidad and Tobago’s 3-3 tie with Mexico earlier on September 4 on club business, should return along with team captain and forward Kenwyne Jones.

Bateau left Belgium on transfer deadline day on loan to top flight Russia mid-table club, FC Krylia Sovetov, where he was immediately installed into the starting team.

Hart will be pleased too that midfielder Khaleem Hyland is playing regularly once more, albeit with the Belgium top flight’s table propper, KVC Westerlo.

However, combative midfielder Kevan George remains a peripheral figure at MLS team, Columbus Crew, while Keron “Ball Pest” Cummings, Kadeem Corbin and Dwane James have spent much of their time since the July Gold Cup on trial abroad.

James is expected to join St Ann’s Rangers soon.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Sheldon Bateau signs for FC Krylia Sovetov in the Russian top flight.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Sheldon Bateau signs for FC Krylia Sovetov in the Russian top flight.

Hart was also frustrated by Barnet when he summoned versatile defender Gavin Hoyte to face Mexico earlier this month. The Warriors coach blamed Barnet manager Martin Allen for Hoyte’s failure to show up and is expected to recall him.

W Connection defender Tristan Hodge has caught the eye during his club’s CONCACAF Champions League campaign while Korea-based defender Carlyle Mitchell has also recovered from an injury that kept him out of the Gold Cup and would hope for an international recall.

The Warriors lost to Panama twice already this year, as the Central American nation edged Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 in Couva and then won on penalties at the Gold Cup quarterfinals.

A result for Trinidad and Tobago in Panama would do wonders for the morale of Hart’s squad, as the country braces for its first appearance at the semifinal round of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying series since 2009.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones heads towards goal against Panama in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Copyright Jewel Samad/AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones heads towards goal against Panama in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
(Copyright Jewel Samad/AFP 2015)

CONCACAF Group 4

Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, United States, St Vincent and the Grenadines.

(Two teams will qualify to the final round).

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18 comments

  1. I doh mind ppl in d stadium
    …just let d regulars have first preference….u shudnt be in d stadium if u eh kno d players to begin with

  2. Jomo I. Johnson we want people in the stadium lol I just read the article. We should play Jamaica before we play St Vincent. Or even Aruba. The two games gets us ready for Guatemala. We need the points against Guatemala. In fact we need 3 points.

  3. You couldn’t find a better cover photo Lasana ? I guess it tells reality to an extent too

  4. Dey shud make it mandatory that u attend ten pro league games before u get a ticket for dis game

  5. Lasana Liburd I only say that because every 16 years we get really close. Lol yes this team can surprise us to be honest. Copa America will be key. If we get into that competition and play at that level it will help us. We have some talent coming through but the concentration level for 90 minutes needs to keep maturing

  6. That’s practical. Yes. But this team has given us some positive surprises already.

    • Ye once Gold Cup form is retained i don’t think its impossible for one of Trinidad or Jamaica to get the HEX & at least finish 4th in table to play/beat whoever Asia puts up in intercontinental play-off

  7. Good research as usual!!! It’s a good warm up but Nicaragua doesn’t offer too much: very low in rank & found them scrappy.

  8. I am intrigued by this World Cup run. I still think we are a World Cup away. 2022 we will get close again

  9. Forgive my ignorance but are players paid for international friendlies? And if yes, at the same rate as for competitive games? What I am really trying to find out is whether there is any incentive for all the top players to make themselves available above and beyond the prospect of selection for the real McCoy later on.