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Haiti makes T&T sorry; Warriors eliminated in 2016 Copa America play off

Trinidad and Tobago’s dream of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Brazil, Argentina and Chile at the 2016 Copa America Centenario competition ended with barely a whimper this evening, as the “Soca Warriors” fell 1-0 to Haiti in a decisive play off contest at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Radanfah Abu Bakr (centre) walks away while Haiti players celebrated their 1-0 in the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Radanfah Abu Bakr (centre) walks away while Haiti players celebrate their 1-0 win in the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

Haiti is ranked 79th in the world by FIFA, some 29 places lower than the Warriors. But there was nothing flukey about the result, as the Haitians were rewarded for their ambition and verve in the second half while Trinidad and Tobago played in spurts and only really came alive once behind.

Haiti’s goal, which striker Kervens Belfort claimed in the 85th minute, left the Warriors with little time to recover though. And Trinidad and Tobago’s best attempt at goal came off the boot of a Haitian defender, as Jean-Marc Alexandre nearly diverted a Joevin Jones cross past his own goalkeeper.

But, as he was throughout the contest, Steward Ceus was up to the task between Haiti’s upright.

The result snapped a five-match unbeaten streak for coach Stephen Hart’s men. But, worse, it denies the Warriors the chance of top notch international matches in June against the type of opposition that doesn’t usually pick up the phone when the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) rings for a game.

In the political jostling between the squad and the new David John-Williams-led administration, as evidenced in a threatened strike by the players over match fees last month, the Warriors also could not pick a more inappropriate time to lose steam.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago striker Jonathan Glenn (left) tries to get around Haiti defender Méchack Jérome during 2016 Copa America play off action this evening in Panama City. Haiti edged Trinidad and Tobago 1-0. (Copyright Rodrigo Arangua/AFP 2016)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago striker Jonathan Glenn (left) tries to get around Haiti defender Méchack Jérome during 2016 Copa America play off action this evening in Panama City.
Haiti edged Trinidad and Tobago 1-0.
(Copyright Rodrigo Arangua/AFP 2016)

Trinidad and Tobago fans might take solace in the absence of captain and forward Kenwyne Jones, who was unavailable as he prepares his move to United Arab Emirates club, Al Jazira.

Jones has 15 goals in his last 27 appearances for the Warriors and is steadily winning over his earlier critics.

Defenders Sheldon Bateau and Justin Hoyte, striker Willis Plaza and midfielders Keron “Ball Pest” Cummings, Kevin Molino and Hughtun Hector were also absent.

Yet, Haiti were missing nearly half the squad that played in their last 2018 World Cup qualifier in November—seven players in total—while new coach Patrice Neveu has been in charge for just over one week.

Yesterday, Hart described the Copa America play off as Trinidad and Tobago’s most important game since their 1-0 win over Bahrain in the 2006 World Cup continental play off.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Joevin Jones (centre) tries to find a way past Haiti defenders Stéphane Lambèse (right) and Méchack Jérome during the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City.  (Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Joevin Jones (centre) tries to find a way past Haiti defenders Stéphane Lambèse (right) and Méchack Jérome during the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

“For us, it is extremely important that we do our best to qualify for the Copa,” said Hart, “because it will aid and assist us in our progress towards World Cup qualification.

“I don’t think we can pay or put a price on the experience we would get on playing in such a prestigious tournament.”

But the Warriors showed little enthusiasm for the contest in the opening 45 minutes, despite playing basically the same team that drew 3-3 with Mexico last September.

Haiti were just as stodgy early on and it meant for a dreadfully dull first half.

It was not until the 47th minute that either team managed a really threatening attempt on goal, as Trinidad and Tobago left back Mekeil Williams forced Ceus into a reflex save to push his attempt for a corner.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Mekeil Williams (centre) prepares to attack a corner kick against Haiti during the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City.  (Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Mekeil Williams (centre) prepares to attack a corner kick against Haiti during the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

But the tempo of the affair changed dramatically after Neveu sent on dreadlocked maestro Sébastien Thurière and speedy winger Pascal Millien in the 52nd and 56th minutes respectively.

Hart responded by introducing striker Shahdon Winchester for Jonathan Glenn, who was part of an anonymous front pairing with Khaleem Hyland. And Winchester, who celebrated his 24th birthday today, might have been an inspired change.

First, Winchester teed up Hyland in the opposing penalty area, off a Joevin cross, only for the midfielder to hit tamely at the Haitian custodian. Then, Winchester might have been the hero himself but his touch deserted him, as he ran on to a right side Lester Peltier cross.

At the other end, Millien was taking to Mekeil like a dog to a chew toy. And, as the game became increasingly stretched, the Warriors looked surprisingly uncomfortable at the back.

Stand-in captain, Jan-Michael Williams, produced a superb save to deny Belfort in a one on one opportunity in the 78th minute. While, five minutes later, Belfort and Jean Maurice were inches away from meeting a dangerous Millien cross, after the winger danced away from Mekeil.

Photo: Haiti striker Kervons Belfort (centre) tangles with Trinidad and Tobago defender Daneil Cyrus (right) and his teammate during this evening's 2016 Copa America Play Off in Panama City. Belfort claimed the decisive goal as Haiti edged Trinidad and Tobago 1-0. (Copyright Rodrigo Arangua/AFP 2016)
Photo: Haiti striker Kervens Belfort (centre) tangles with Trinidad and Tobago defender Daneil Cyrus (right) and his teammate during this evening’s 2016 Copa America Play Off in Panama City.
Belfort claimed the decisive goal as Haiti edged Trinidad and Tobago 1-0.
(Copyright Rodrigo Arangua/AFP 2016)

But the Warriors’ good fortune would not hold.

In the 85th minute, Millien delivered an angled cross into the penalty area, as Mekeil stood off. Belfort went at it and claimed the decisive touch although replays were inconclusive.

But what mattered most is that Jan-Michael could not stop it, as the ball bounced across the goal line with only five minutes left in regulation time.

Remarkably, the Warriors almost answered within seconds as Joevin’s firm cross picked up a wicked deflection off Alexandre’s boot, only for Ceus to respond with the save of the match.

Ceus, at 28 years of age, made only his eighth senior international appearance today. But surely it was his most memorable.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Shahdon Winchester (right) tries to escape from Haiti defender Jean Marc Alexandre during the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City.  (Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Shahdon Winchester (right) tries to escape from Haiti defender Jean Marc Alexandre during the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

Hart sent lanky defender Radanfah Abu Bakr upfront for the closing minutes, as the Warriors drove long balls into the opposing penalty area. But Neveu responded by swapping a striker for a defender as Haiti held on for a famous result.

The tale of the tape, after the final whistle, showed that both teams completed an almost identical number of passes—a measly 150 to 149—while Haiti’s share of the ball was a far from lopsided 56 percent.

But Haiti had 12 shots on target. Trinidad and Tobago mustered just three.

In two and a half years, Hart has led the Warriors into 18 competitive matches and lost just thrice in regulation time. Two of those defeats were to Haiti—a team that possesses the athleticism and aggression to nullify Trinidad and Tobago’s pace.

At the moment, Trinidad and Tobago are FIFA’s number one ranked team in the Caribbean. But it will feel like a hollow achievement in June when they watch Caribbean champions, Jamaica, and Haiti competing at the 2016 Copa America Centenario competition.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart reacts to final whistle in the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City.  (Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart reacts to final whistle in the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

(Teams)

Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK), 5.Daneil Cyrus, 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 12.Carlyle Mitchell, 17.Mekeil Williams, 19.Kevan George (15.Neveal Hackshaw 81), 14.Andre Boucaud, 23.Lester Peltier, 8.Khaleem Hyland, 3.Joevin Jones; 7.Jonathan Glenn (10.Shahdon Winchester 57).

Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 2.Aubrey David, 20.Trevin Caesar, 9.Rundell Winchester, 11.Ataulla Guerra, 13.Cordell Cato, 18.Yohance Marshall, Jomal Williams.

Coach: Stephen Hart

 

Haiti (3-5-2): 1.Steward Ceus (GK); 3.Méchack Jérome, 13.Kevin La France (15.Sébastien Thurière 52), 6.Frantz Bertin (captain); 2.Stéphane Lambèse, 16.Jean Marc Alexandre, 19.Max Hilaire, 14.Soni Mustivar (11.Pascal Millien 56), 5.Alex Christian; 9.Kervens Fils Belfort, 10.Jean Eudes Maurice (18.Judlin Aveska 89).

Unused substitutes: 12.Valendi Odelus (GK), 23.Jaafson Origène (GK), 22.Junior Delva, 17.Woodensky Chèrenfant, 4.Kim Jaggy, 21.Constant Monuma, 7.Sony Nordé, 8.Wedson Anselme, 20.Duckens Nazon,

Coach: Patrice Neveu

 

Referee: David Gantar (Canada)

Man of the match: Pascal Millien (Haiti)

Photo: Haiti attacker Kervens Belfort celebrates his nation's win over Honduras during the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Courtesy MexSport/CONCACAF)
Photo: Haiti attacker Kervens Belfort celebrates his nation’s win over Honduras during the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
(Courtesy MexSport/CONCACAF)

2016 Copa America Centenario

(Friday January 8)

Haiti 1 (Kervens Fils Belfort 85), Trinidad and Tobago 0 in Panama City;

Panama v Cuba, Panama City, 9.30 pm, Panama City.

About Lasana 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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108 comments

  1. But folks, isn’t intensity, then lack of intensity so very Trinidadian?

  2. Maybe if our footballers were like most of the other athletes who represent T&T and focused on training, the game and national pride instead of always ‘pay-check’ and ego..things may start going our way..just a thought

  3. The level of desire and lack of intensity was embarrassing yesterday . Can’t believe how casual we were

  4. This result have less to do with tactics and technical ability and more with mental toughness and focus

  5. I’d generally agree with that Cheyenne. Although our set pieces are a real plus. We are generally good for a set piece goal or two and we will need that against teams that sit deep.

  6. Kenwyne isn’t Messi to dictate to football clubs. I think the negotiations were in a sensitive stage and it needed Kenwyne to be able to hop a plane to Dubai at a moment’s notice.
    I’m sure he wanted to play.

  7. It’s the man livelihood … why shouldn’t he sort it out?

  8. Unfortunately a lot of our players are not technically sound to be able to play quick possession football.. Guys like Boucaud Joevin Molino can certainly do it but majority are limited. I believe we play to our strengths with the style Hart is using but I had big doubts about us using it vs teams on or below our level and it being effective .. Especially without Kenwyne where he is vital in the direct approach we’ve used.

    You would expect st Vincent to be deep and organized so we really have to hope our more technically gifted players play at a high tempo to unlock them and not be too dependent on the direct style because as I said I think it plays into the hands of teams on or below our level.

  9. Why did Kenwyne not play? To go sort out a new contract? Seriously?

  10. I was actually talking about Harts Philosophy, which is the counterattack, with someone last night. I’ve actually followed him since his time at Canada. I was curious about this Trinidad and Tobago coach. He did quite well until things exploded spectacularly with that 8-0 defeat. Counter attacking is not my philosophy. I like being in control of a game. The problem with counter attacking is when u concede early. Then you are forced to come out. If your players are tactically disciplined they would maintain the initial plan and not panic. Most don’t though so you end up losing badly..but it’s his philosophy and that’s how he thinks he can get the best from his players.. Maybe he is right as he works with them.. Time will tell..

  11. What about the lack of fluency Kelvin? Even when we are at our best, we don’t see that.
    Does that matter? Can we make it purely on counter attacks?
    Because we will probably meet a St Vincent team that won’t push forward and play into our hands.

  12. Lasana.. I’ve seen quite a few Trinidad games.. And it’s so interesting to analyse from a coaching point of view.. I speak to kenwyne regularly and talk about games.. Decision making and tactical awareness must improve.. Tactical discipline..

  13. Haiti keeper looked a bit unorthodox but was effective. Their forward play is good.. Hart has his philosophy and that’s good.. Good guy to help and work with

  14. The Caribbean teams are on the rise kelvin. The last Caribbean cup showed that. All four Caribbean teams got to the quarterfinals of the 2015 Gold Cup. First time that ever happened.
    But we are not at the forefront of the Caribbean anymore despite the FIFA rankings.

  15. Haiti surprised me a bit. If they could finish they will be quite good

  16. Finally seen a good portion of the game.. Haiti were better and shouldn’t won by more.. Still like something about Hart.. Says some useful things..

  17. Shocking loss to me as my hopes were high. First half we deserved to score just did not have the confidence and self believe in front of goal. The execution on well position free kicks was poor. 2nd half Haiti had more purpose and belief they were on the front foot with intent, we lacked passion, determination and belief. A fantastic opportunity lost.
    A thought on culture, the two Caribbean countries that qualified are Jamaica and Haiti. These two countries are perceived to have bold, arrogant, confident and aggressive cultures/people. Coincidentally, they are also the first two Caribbean countries to qualify for World Cups; Haiti with a footnote. How would we describe ourselves?

    • Lasana Liburd

      Can’t we play Guatemala every week? Lol. Off the top of my head, I am starting to feel we have a tough time against teams that match us athletically and physically. Because our game is built on pace and set pieces.

  18. Here comes all the couch potato coaches. I say fire the blasted coach and one ah allyuh take over the wuk. Like Hart went there with a mission to lose. We had a bad game punto final just like any world class team has done in the past. But ah fuget. Every body is the Bess coach. Go for the jugular folks.

  19. hmmm late to the party *oops i mean* funeral.! man..this country need a serious bush bath on all sports yes!! very disappointed they lost but not vex…im immune to there stupidity an foolish plays…but say what!! like my favorite baseball team slogan!! *better luck next time*

  20. They really missed Cummings and Kenwyne but it was poor goalkeeping

    • Hackshaw, Mitchell, Abu Bakr, and Jan-Michael were all culpable for that goal. To be fair to Jan, he saved a certain goal minutes before, and then a second one after Haiti’s goal. Yes he could have and should have done better, but he was also let down by his defenders.

    • Those angled balls into a crowd are always difficult for a goalkeeper because he has to be mindful of a touch that will change its trajectory.
      I’ve seen many top goalkeepers concede those angled balls. Although usually with a bit more pace on them.

  21. all the good teams in CONCACAF are in the COPA apart from Trinidad and Tobago, this is a shame. What is even more telling is since Hart has coached T&T we have lost our 2 matches to Haiti, don’t get me wrong Hart is a brilliant coach.

  22. Everything about this country seems to be on the decline.

  23. we had some fair exchanges was a battle of the keepers JEAN MICHAEL made three big saves and let a easier one in it looked like bad judgement or reflexes let him down while the HATIAN keeper had less work but pulled off a great deflection save to keep them in the game our fowards took weak shots my heart go out to them another great opprotunity missed so we move on to ST VINCENT in MARCH GOOD FRIDAY away and the TUESDAY here im still a WARRIOR on the ROAD TO RUSSIA

  24. Didn’t we lose to Mexico in the quarter-finals of the 2013 Gold Cup in regular time tho?

  25. Lasana, usually doesn’t help us tonight … In my opinion we lacked both intensity & positional sense off the ball tonight. However, I do agree that we do need to do more when we have possession. That being said, I would like to offer the team & coach Hart three words of advice – Control, Pass, Support.

  26. We are usually very solid without the ball. And I don’t think that was our problem tonight either.
    It is more about what we do with the ball.
    We lacked tempo too, I think.

  27. Somebody needs to coach the lads how to play without the ball … terrible tonight

  28. The inability to move the ball around purposefully in opposition territory is really disappointing too. It can be so tedious. Sigh.

  29. Worst performance from T&T in a long time…besides out left-side being targeted as others mentioned we lacked any cutting edge upfront Glenn found himself isolated way too much in the 1st half especially and thats when we were dominating. Great opportunity lost…awaiting Coach Hart’s comments.

  30. I’m not a fan of that kid Mikeil Williams ….he always tires at,the end of games and makes mistakes when he does …been seeing this since the gold cup. We dont have a second gear either if the two jones are not creating anything then we’re defending and holding out for a draw … not impressed with our talent pool

  31. Story updated with some wonderful pics from our photographer on the spot, Allan V Crane.

  32. In preparation for World Cup 2018 and of course when we do go to World Cup 2018

  33. Protect the left side better for which game now ?? History will not repeat….. A very soft goal….

  34. They definitely singled out Mekeil Williams. And that happens a lot these days. So we really do need to protect that side better.

  35. In the absence of KJ why were we playing 4-3-2-1 why not 4-4-2? Our left flank was very porous maybe Mekeil Williams had a bad night but clearly Haiti noticed something and most attacks came through our left side. It was just a matter of time before Haiti scored as coach Hart made no attempt to fortify the left side of our defense.

  36. Sigh I suppose we were playing for extra time and beyond. There subs made the difference in the end.

  37. That was really disappointing.

  38. Yeah. It wasn’t the Warriors we know.

  39. I just can’t understand how as a footballer you have an opportunity to play in a prestigious tournament against some of the modern day greats and you don’t play like you life depends on it. I would have been satisfied if they played with passion and lost.

  40. Well, we only had one sub outstanding.

  41. Hate seeing all those names as “unused”

  42. I forgot Trevin Caesar. I might have introduced him for the closing minutes ahead of Cato even. He is an impact player.

  43. I would have gambled on Guerra for the closing minutes. But then I know he was unwell when he just joined the camp. So maybe he wasn’t up to it.
    But I thought we might have had a more dynamic sub for the closing minutes. Even Rundell or Jomal, if not Guerra.

  44. Disappointing display and result. Hardly any decisive penetration. The frustrating thing was that Haiti themselves did not play well, although they created better chances. Would have liked to see Cato or Caesar come on for Peltier. The goal we conceded was a colossal cock up by Hackshaw, Mitchell, Abu Bakr, and Jan-Michael.

  45. I won’t describe Cato as a match winner. I was surprised to see Peltier start in front of Cato again but Peltier didn’t do badly.

  46. Hard to watch , Jan will make most brilliant saves but let softest goals in . Smh what a chance we let slip

  47. Have questions about unused substitutes, particularly Cato. Any thoughts?

  48. I record the game and will delete it

  49. I Cyah watch this nah! I am so mad