The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team will face Martinique from 8pm today at the Stade Pierre-Aliker in Fort-de-France in a match of real significance to the immediate future of the Soca Warriors.
The winner alone—and the game will go to extra time and penalty kicks if necessary—will continue to the 2017 Caribbean Cup semifinals and secure an automatic 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup spot. The loser still has a shot of a Gold Cup berth through a play off.
And, perhaps more importantly, it will be the Warriors’ last assignment before they open the CONCACAF Hex on 11 November 2016 against Costa Rica in Port of Spain. Four days later, coach Stephen Hart will take his troops to San Pedro Sula to face Honduras in the 32,000-seater Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano.
The big challenge is almost here.
Tonight’s game in Martinique is vital in its own right, though, and the Warriors insisted they are not looking too far ahead just yet.
“We have no doubt that [Martinique] will come out with the belief that they can get a result and they will come hard,” Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones told the TTFA Media “But we have to take care of our game. We know our capabilities which you would have seen being demonstrated in the game last Wednesday [against the Dominican Republic].
“And I think once we do things in the right manner and we do it as a team, then there is every reason to believe we can get the result to propel us to the next phase and also the Concacaf Gold Cup.”
Martinique defeated the Dominican Republic 2-1 away on Sunday while Trinidad and Tobago whipped the latter team 4-0 in Couva last Wednesday.
The Warriors arrived in Fort-de-France on Sunday evening and trained in torrential rain yesterday afternoon. Hart said the team will try to avoid making the game harder for themselves through a lack of concentration.
“The heavy rains caused a lot of puddles on the field this morning but we will not harp on that,” said Hart. “The most important thing was being able to get the legs working again and then we’d see how the next session goes before the match.
“The players know why they are here. They’ve been to two Gold Cups in a row and they certainly want to play in a third one and we will be focusing on doing what is necessary to come out with the victory.
“There is a lot of history between the two countries… We will […] try to avoid the little errors that could possibly make the game hard for us and of course take care of our chances when we get them.”
Jones turned 31 last Wednesday while there were two more birthdays within the squad since, as defender Triston Hodge turned 22 on Sunday and goalkeeper Adrian Foncette celebrated his 28th birthday yesterday.
Full back Aubrey David, a two-time former World Youth Cup player, said the week together has been good for team spirit.
“The last few days have been quite valuable to us a team,” said David. “We’ve had time to train and also improve different aspects of our game both on and off the field. The important thing, as all the players know, is to transfer all our positive energies onto the field.
“There is a bigger plan in all of this which is to qualify for a World Cup. So we have in our minds how important each day is leading up to those first couple of matches against Costa Rica and Honduras next month.”
Martinique have traditionally been an awkward opponent for Trinidad and Tobago, although the two island republic enjoyed better results over the last decade. The French islanders won their first three encounters against the Warriors in this millennium, including a 2-1 win at the 2001 Caribbean Cup tournament in Port of Spain.
But then Trinidad and Tobago struck back with three wins on the trot including a 1-0 win in Fort-de-France at the 2010 Caribbean Cup. The last meeting of the two nations ended in a penalty shoot out win for the Warriors in the 2012 Caribbean Cup semifinal, after striker Richard Roy scored a 90th minute equaliser.
Trinidad and Tobago will hope to make it four in a row on enemy territory to boot.
(Trinidad and Tobago Team)
Goalkeepers: Jan-Michael Williams, Adrian Foncette;
Defenders: Mekeil Williams, Aubrey David, Daneil Cyrus, Tristan Hodge, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Sheldon Bateau;
Midfielders: Khaleem Hyland, Andre Boucaud, Kevan George, Neveal Hackshaw;
Attacking midfielders: Joevin Jones, Cordell Cato, Levi Garcia, Kevin Molino, Jomal Williams;
Forwards: Kenwyne Jones, Trevin Caesar, Shahdon Winchester.