Combative Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevan George says the Soca Warriors have not given up on their Russia 2018 World Cup dream and will fight for their country and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) when they tackle Panama on Tuesday night.
The Warriors and Panama kick off from 9pm (TT time) in the CONCACAF Hex clash at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City.
Trinidad and Tobago, who are the bottom of the six-team standings, must win their next three matches away to Panama and Mexico and at home to the United States to have any chance of finishing fourth and grabbing a FIFA Play-off berth against the Asian Football Confederation’s fifth-placed nation.
Panama are second from bottom but, if they win tomorrow, they would be propelled to third or fourth depending on the results in other matches.
George, who played for 90 minutes in T&T’s 2-1 World Cup qualifying loss to Honduras in Couva last Friday, insisted the Warriors have not given up despite “the negative reports” about the team.
“We as a team haven’t given up on anything, regardless of all the negative reports,” George told the TTFA Media. “There is still a positive mood in the camp. Obviously after a loss like Friday, people are saying all sorts of things about the squad and the Football Association but this is expected when the results are not going your way.
“What I can say is we remain a team and we want to make the country proud and we know how important it is for us to do something positive to boost the FA and football overall in the country. These are the times when we have to stick together and fight it out.”
National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence echoed George’s sentiments and promised fans that the Warriors will fight until it is mathematically impossible to go to Russia.
“We have no choice but to be positive and to take the right approach to this match, which is to go out and play for three points,” said Lawrence. “Obviously we are not in the best of positions on the table but once we are mathematically in with a chance—which we are at the moment—then we have to give it everything and pull ourselves together to try and get what is required.”
Neither coach nor player commented on the internal issues within the squad including unpaid match fees from the TTFA. The Warriors are due payments from the football body for their last six matches but, according to sources, have only been told to expect their fees for outings against Grenada and the United States—in April and June respectively—in two weeks’ time.
George said the players are focused on the World Cup campaign, though, and vowed to fight for their administrators as well as the fans and football stakeholders.
“We had a very good session on Sunday morning before we left home for Panama,” said George, “and now we will be looking to have a positive final session tonight at the stadium ahead of tomorrow’s game.
“We know the fans are disappointed and we as a team were also disappointed but as professionals we have had to put this past us and get on with the campaign. We have three games left and we owe it the administrators, the stakeholders and the fans to pull off something here in Panama.
“We owe ourselves a proper performance.”
Trinidad and Tobago and Panama are the most feeble offensive teams in the Hex with four goals apiece from six matches played so far. No Panama player has managed more than a solitary goal at this stage while the Warriors are yet to get an item from any of the four forwards—Kenwyne Jones, Jamille Boatswain, Shahdon Winchester and Willis Plaza—used in the Hex.
However, Panama conceded five goals and managed three clean sheets while Trinidad and Tobago have one clean sheet and leaked 12 goals.
The Warriors beat Panama 1-0 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 24 March 2017 in Lawrence’s first competitive fixture as a head coach. Trinidad and Tobago have not won in their seven international matches since then.
(Trinidad and Tobago squad)
Goalkeepers: 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK), 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 22.Adrian Foncette (GK);
Defenders: 2.Aubrey David, 5.Daneil Cyrus, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 12.Carlyle Mitchell, 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 15.Curtis Gonzales, 17.Mekeil Williams, 3.Kevon Villaroel;
Midfielders: 19.Kevan George, 13.Hughtun Hector, 8.Khaleem Hyland, 23.Leston Paul;
Attacking midfielders: 7.Cordell Cato, 18.Nathan Lewis, 10.Kevin Molino, 3.Joevin Jones, 11.Tyrone Charles;
Forwards: 20.Jamille Boatswain, 9.Willis Plaza.