“It is to be noted that if this regular system was used—as with all previous and present FIFA qualifying league tournaments, including the present World Cup qualifiers—our National Team would have won the [Caribbean Cup qualifying group] between themselves, Dominic Republic and Martinique.
“[In that competition, then coach Stephen Hart’s team acquired] four points along with Martinique but would have qualified automatically for the Gold Cup by having a superior goal difference.”
The following Letter to the Editor on the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) rule change, which means that all matches must be played until there is a winner, was sent to Wired868 by ex-National Security Minister Gary Griffith:
The last thing that football supporters want to hear are perceived excuses for their team not qualifying or winning a tournament. But it must be brought to the attention of all, that the Caribbean Football Union must be taken to task for their ridiculous plan at the recent CFU Gold Cup qualifying tournament of the “every game must have result.”
This was in total contrast to all FIFA International tournaments whereby the winners are decided via most points accumulated per game, followed by goal difference, then goals for, and then the head to head result—if the other three factors are also tied.
It is to be noted that if this regular system was used—as with all previous and present FIFA qualifying league tournaments, including the present World Cup qualifiers—our National Team would have won the [Caribbean Cup qualifying group] between themselves, Dominic Republic and Martinique.[In that competition, then coach Stephen Hart’s team acquired] four points along with Martinique but would have qualified automatically for the Gold Cup by having a superior goal difference.
But instead, the CFU decided to proceed with the most ridiculous plan of insisting that every game must have a winner, which was not only impractical for a league tournament but caused possible avenues for match fixing and teams even deliberately attempting to lose to then qualify.
Going into the last game of the Gold Cup play off against Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago needed to win by two clear goals to top the group. And, because of this new rule, the two goal win could have been in regular time or the added 30 minutes extra time—if the score was level at regulation time.
So, because of this ridiculous format established by the CFU and with the score tied at 2-2 with a minute to go, it benefited Trinidad and Tobago NOT to score, so they could go into extra time to get 30 minutes to score two goals.
This then meant that it would have been to an opposing team’s advantage—Haiti, in this case—to have their opponent score on them and they lose the game, so they would qualify.
Had the Haiti coach known this, he could then have easily directed his team to score an own goal with seconds left in the game and deliberately lose 2-3 in full time, to avoid having T&T acquire a full 30 minutes to score the two clear goals needed.
Likewise, the T&T coach may well have told his team not to score with a few minutes to go, so he would get the 30 minutes extra time to score the two goals needed.
It shows that this format can be manipulated, can cause match fixing and open the windows for poor ethics to ensure qualifying, which cannot be good for the sport.
Our nation has not qualified for the Gold Cup because administrators in CFU decided to do their own thing—outside of FIFA’s usual League regulations—and their shortcoming should be exposed, which would ensure that they do not repeat such blunders in the future.
Editor’s Note: FIFA has proposed using the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) format for deciding group matches in the 2026 World Cup, when the tournament will be expanded to 48 teams for the first time.
Trinidad and Tobago would have finished unbeaten in the Gold Cup playoffs under Tom Saintfiet without the CFU tournament rule change. However, they would still have failed to qualify with two points—while Haiti and Suriname would have finished with four points and one point respectively.