Phillip stars as Soca Warriors hang on for goalless draw in Japan

A brilliant goalkeeping display by veteran Marvin Phillip helped the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team to an unlikely goalless draw in Aichi this morning as the Soca Warriors held off a makeshift Japan team in an international friendly affair.

Head coach Dennis Lawrence spoke about his efforts to turn the Warriors into adept ball handlers and the need for more creativity in the final third. There was little sign of either attribute in Aichi today, as Japan hogged 68 percent possession. But Warriors fans could be heartened by a hard-earned—albeit slightly fortuitous—draw on foreign soil against Asia’s second best ranked team.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

“It was a long journey to get here,” said Lawrence, after the match. “The boys did us proud and it was really the type of test we needed going into competition like the Gold Cup. I was really pleased for the boys. I couldn’t name one particular player because I thought they all stood up to be counted.

“Obviously in the end Japan really pushed us back and our ‘keeper had to pull off some incredible saves but that is what he’s there for.”


It was a curious Japan line-up. Head coach Hajime Moriyasu started with only three players from his 2019 Copa America squad that will face Chile next week. Team captain Shinji Kagawa never came off the bench while Leicester City forward Shinji Okazaki, who is in the Copa squad, was not even named among the substitutes.

If it was an experimental line-up, it certainly was not a weak one with the likes of veteran left back Yuto Nagatomo and Getafe midfielder Gaku Shibasaki featuring prominently. Shibasaki, who wore the armband, was one of the three Copa America-bound players used from the start alongside defender Takehiro Tomiyasu and attacking midfielder Shoya Nakajima.

The 24-year-old Nakajima, who plays his football in Qatar with Al Duhail, was clearly the game’s outstanding outfield player and he gave the Trinidad and Tobago defence no end of trouble as he drifted in off the left flank to go for goal or pick out teammates.

Photo: Japan midfielder Shoya Nakajima was a constant threat for Trinidad and Tobago.

Japan had eight shots on target in the first half and continued where they left off after the break. But Phillip, the only survivor from Trinidad and Tobago’s 2001 Under-17 World Cup team, was in inspired form and made a mockery of the fact that he has not played competitively in close to seven months.

Phillip’s sharp reflexes and sound handling glossed over Trinidad and Tobago’s failure to keep the ball or work it past Japan’s first line of defence near the half-line. And the twin island republic often looked in danger of being overrun by the attack-minded hosts who lined up in a 3-4-3 formation.

Still, Lawrence could point out that one of the game’s best chances fell to the visitors as Levi Garcia snuck behind the opposing defence in the 55th minute to run onto a diagonal pass by Nathan Lewis, against the run of play, only to be turned around the post for a corner kick by Japan custodian Daniel Schmidt.

Schmidt was called into action in the 21st minute too, when he fended away a long ranged free kick by Alvin Jones.

Those rare forays apart, it was ‘backs to the wall’ stuff by the Warriors who again demonstrated bravery and mobility, as they chased the game throughout but somehow managed to preserve the clean sheet.

“In terms of the game obviously we had to dig deep because we played an exceptional team in Japan,” said Lawrence. “They moved the ball well. They tried to get the ball in wide areas, create the width and get a lot of crosses in which we expected and we had to defend. On the other side I was really, really proud of my boys tonight.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Dennis Lawrence gives instructions during the 2018 World Cup football qualifier match against Panama in Panama City, on 5 September 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Ed Grimaldo)

Phillip told the TTFA Media that his showing in Japan was the result of hard work on the training ground and he credited Lawrence’s guidance.

“We knew the game would have been tough,” said Phillip. “We tried to go out there and stick to the game plan. During the game I had to make a couple saves and I came up big for the team on the night. That’s a goalkeeper’s job. I had been putting in a lot of work since we started the training camp. All of this didn’t come by guess. It came by putting in a lot of work with the goalkeeper coach, Ross Russell.

“[…] We understand what [Lawrence] wants. It’s just for us to go out there and execute and turn the 1-0 losses we’ve had in the last couple games into positive results going into the Gold Cup. I knew I needed to remain solid for the closing minutes of the match because the guys were getting tired also because a few of them having been active for a while.

“We have a few things to work on still and to fine tune but the next week will be important and should be really good for us going into the opener against Panama.”

There were some scares for Lawrence’s medical staff in the second half as Jones and central defender Carlyle Mitchell left the field on the stretcher. Jones’ exit meant Trinidad and Tobago played the final 25 minutes with Club Sando midfielder Akeem Humphrey at right back while W Connection’s Shahdon Winchester, the only forward in the Warriors party, was an unused substitute with the lanky head coach replacing Garcia with veteran flanker Lester Peltier upfront.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Lester Peltier (right) vies for the ball with Argentina defender Marcos Rojo (bottom) and forward Rodrigo Palacio during their friendly international in June 2014.
(Copyright AFP 2014/ Juan Mabromata)

Lawrence saw today’s outing as largely positive against a nation ranked 26th in the world by FIFA. At present, Trinidad and Tobago are ranked 93rd. The draw also snapped a three-match losing streak for the Warriors, which dates back to their 1-0 loss to Thailand on 14 October 2018 and also includes narrow defeats away to Iran and Wales.

Trinidad and Tobago travel to Los Angeles next to face Canada on 10 June before they kick off their 2019 Gold Cup campaign against Panama on 18 June. Japan host El Salvador in another friendly on 9 June before they head to Brazil for their opening Copa fixture against Chile on 17 June.


Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 16.Alvin Jones (14.Akeem Humphrey 67), 12.Carlyle Mitchell (15.Curtis Gonzales 89), 5.Daneil Cyrus (vice captain), 3.Mekeil Williams; 19.Kevan George, 23.Leston Paul; 13.Nathan Lewis (6.Duane Muckette 78), 8.Khaleem Hyland (captain) (4.Neveal Hackshaw 84), 20.Jomal Williams (2.Judah Garcia 89); 11.Levi Garcia (18.Lester Peltier 71).

Unused substitutes: 22.Adrian Foncette (GK); 9.Shahdon Winchester.

Coach: Dennis Lawrence

Japan (3-4-3): 23.Daniel Schmidt (GK); 22.Shinnosuke Hatanaka, 3.Gen Shoji, 16.Takehiro Tomiyasu; 19.Hiroki Sakai (2.Sei Muroya 61), 24.Hidemasa Morita (25.Yuki Kobayashi 61), 7.Gaku Shibasaki (captain), 5.Yuto Nagatomo (8.Genki Haraguchi 79); 21.Ritsu Doan (14.Junya Ito 21), 15.Yuya Osako, 11.Shoya Nakajima (9.Takumi Minamino 71).

Unused substitutes: 12.Shuichi Gonda (GK), 28.Keisuke Osako (GK), 4.Ryosuke Yamanaka, 6.Kento Hashimoto, 10.Shinji Kagawa, 13.Kensuke Nagai, 20.Tomoake Makino.

Coach: Hajime Moriyasu

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  1. How do we define a good result?

    Is every draw a good result?

    Or do we look for how many completed passes, crosses into the box, how many balls won in each third, thru passes from the midfielders, diagonal runs in the attacking 3rd, defensive cohesiveness, passes completed in each 3rd, how well we changed and switched the angle of attack?????????

  2. And we were also hurt by some marijuana protocols

  3. Good result for us being away from home ,I saw we had some shots on target ,we just have to work on getting the ball in ,we defended well ,Marvin was exceptional in front of goal ,but all and all good result seeing we had some injuries ,we have some improvements to make and once we make it ,we will be a good footballing machine.

  4. 23 man squad for the Gold Cup.

    Aubrey, Plaza and Ross Russel Jr out with visa issues.

    I am extremely disappointed the young left back Julien is not in the squad

  5. Tallest making this team into a team that cant score and just defend… he doesnt have that level of coaching like Hart to turn this team into an offensive threat

  6. I agree with Dennis synopsis of the game expect that the entire team at times looked disoriented… I watched how Japan quickly went from 3-4-3 to a 5-4-1 when going from attack to defence…and how well they kept their shape… it wasn’t a full string Japanese team so things could have been worst… progress to work from /on 6/10

  7. Marvin had a remarkable game, however, I think one of the areas we need to work on urgently has to do with the passing of the ball. Japan intercepted our passes too easy especially in mid field.

  8. we need to stop heading the ball back to the “D” defensively.

  9. Lasana Liburd Straying away from the football. Did you notice we wore Capelli instead of Joma? Is our Joma contract over? What the deal with that?

  10. Lasana Liburd, I only listened to Andre’s and Tony’s commentary, from what they descibed and the gesture by the opposing Keeper to go to Marvin and embrace him after the game, gave me goose bumps.

    Says a lot about Marvin’s performance. Is there any way to see a replay?

  11. Marvin saved the game for us basically.

  12. Btw…anyone notice how dull d red in our “new kit” looked or was it just me?? The colour looked wash out an plain

  13. Not bad…we held our own against a formidable team. Now if the TTFA admin could just get it right from their end…working towards Qatar 2022

  14. Strange eh…we say we were strong defensively yet our GK was d man of d match…cud some one explain that for me??

  15. defense was sketchy and disorganised,
    JAP kept the ball but the possession was unproductive and couldn’t get going
    TRI had some good counterattacks, with Levi Garcia showing some class–if not form
    The handful of corners TRI had lookd more dangerous and showed some imagination and understanding the strengths of the team
    Lots of pluses but if not for the supreme, god-mode goalkeeping from Phillips would have been an easy 4-0.
    5 shots at goal from TRI, about 3/4 of which went straight to keeper, is not goin to win anyone matches.
    Overall I gave it a 7/10 performance

  16. And we cant even get that right because we either kicking away the ball or not controlling it when a proper long ballis played

  17. Great improvement!! More power needed up front! Too many “cramps”. I give them a B+.

  18. Possession requires lots of mental work, if the players are not mentally ready, or do not understand angles and movement off the ball, we will never keep possession. I believe we need more players with football intelligence and patience. This team looks under-prepared from the video room.

  19. Its difficult to watch players on the international stage struggle to make simple passes and have effective ball control. That’s not the fault of the coach. At international level coaches work on team tactics and strategy. The assumption is that players can adapt and play to instructions. DL said that the team worked on possession for this game. Its clear that’s not what we saw today. The real problem may be with the pool that we are selecting from.

    • Anthony Blake very interesting comments.

    • Anthony Blake ball control, accurate passing and football intelligence is 75 % of what you need to play with a team effectively.

    • Timothy Rochford I’m hoping for a better showing in the Gold Cup. But our football needs some serious intervention. I often wonder how we managed to produce quality footballers in the past. There was a time when we could boast of having more than 20 international based players ( Nakid Yorke Latapy Nixon Wise et al ). We also had a quality local pool with that could have held their own internationally ( Eve and others) but now big players in the pro league never seen to rise to the occasion and we have very few persons playing in the first or second tier of international league football. I know the current administration has been an easy target but surely the genesis or our dilemma lies hidden somewhere in the past.

  20. A couple weeks to GC…work in progress?

  21. Can’t beat anyone if we not scoring goals !

    2 goals in last 5 games (2 in one match vs UAE)

  22. Decent result. Seems like we are setup to play not to lose, but not setup to play to win. Defense is way better structured, and yet even so, the GK was man of the match. Liked Williams and Garcia on offense. George had pretty bad game as CDM, especially first half. Can see him being a liability against quick ball moving teams. On to Canada.

  23. I definitely support and want success for our team but I also believe in calling it as I saw it. Japan was unlucky not to be ahead by at least 2 goals in the first half. Had they been more clinical we would be having a different discussion.

    • Why not say Anthony Blake that the team did a great job of defense considering who they were playing and that accounted for Japan not scoring…just wondering?

    • Kerri Ann I looked at the game. Can we go into a tournament and play like this. It will be difficult to play three game and have a clean sheet if we give the opposition so many opportunities on goal. I’m all for being optimistic but we must also be realistic. That in my opinion is part of the problem in local sport. I look at professional sport outside of Trinidad and see how much the performance of every team and player is analyzed. Constructive criticism is part of professional sport at all levels. We have an attitude locally of “the boys did their best.” Watch the NBA finals tonight and see how the international media dissects every play every pass and every coaching decision. We need to stop patting people on their back.

    • Anthony Blake You are 100% on target with the criticism and “the boys did their best”. I was fortunate to speak with Warren Archibald about a decade ago as I wanted my three son’s to have an appreciation of our football history beyond Latapy and Yorke. He pointed out his displeasure with our “hard luck” attitude in the field. He was passionate and insistent that this mindset and what it breeds be removed. Initially, I did not fully get his point but as my two sons got involved with our U17 and U20 National teams it made more sense than most of the coaches tactics

    • Kerri Ann if you run across the highway while cars are speeding and didn’t get run over, it isn’t because you exercised great judgment.
      It is not as simple as just looking at the score card. When there is a shooting gallery, you didn’t do a great defensive job.

    • (Lasana Liburd Sean Powder) Kerri Ann’s perspective is not unique. In fact, I believe that her view is the norm. We all love sport and support our athletes however it’s almost criminal to be critical of a team or athlete’s performance. The governing bodies are by no means perfect but they usually bear the brunt of the criticism when things go south. I’ve yet to see a program on local radio or television that critically examines the performance of our sports personalities whether good or bad. Look at how much information is available about the players in foreign leagues that we have real-time access to. That is what endears us to them and its what makes them marketable. What do we know about most of our sportsmen and women? People in professional sports cant be thin skinned!

  24. Lasana Liburd after watching the first 40 minutes I posted this on wired: “After 40 minutes of the first half. It’s difficult to see us playing possession football against high-quality opposition. We haven’t been able to string three passes together consistently, there is a lack of movement off the ball and our first touch is poor. We are playing on the counterattack for the most part

  25. Team looked organised defensively. That’s positive. Clearly saw the lines of defence.

  26. I watched the last thirty minutes:

    .Japan dominated possession but we put too many bodies between them and our goal so the Japanese looked impotent in the penalty area.
    .When they did break through Marvin Phillips proved himself to be the match MVP.
    .Our lack of fitness showed in the number of players who went to ground.
    .We also looked impotent on the ball, with the occasional long ball forward in the attempt to counter attack.
    .All in all a good result but, to be redundant, winning requires goals.

    Let’s see what the friendly against a CONCACAF nation (Canada) brings in a few days.

    • Keith the Coaches comments before the game was not reflected in play,we did not look composed in possession ,we did not string together passes.
      Could not understand the long ball to the lone striker in the context of a training game
      Very little movement off the ball in midfield .
      Satisfactory result.

    • End of first half shot count was 11-1 in their favor and people on here talking about good result.

    • Ian Fitzwilliam Bro, the ONLY stat that matters in the end is the FINAL RESULT. The other stats are nice to have and give an indication regarding the state of play. That said, the stats do indicate the poverty of our play.

    • Keith Look Loy we just can’t keep the ball

    • Agreed, And this criticism applies to all our teams – national and club. I don’t necessarily blame Lawrence here. Our players just refuse to adopt ball possession tactics into their individual and collective game. No matter how much of that you do in training.

    • Keith Look Loy I get that results matter, but they are misleading.

    • Ian Fitzwilliam As long as ah get it ah happy. ????

    • Dennis Lawrence trying to baffle people with BS, talking about playing a possession game when your key link, Kevan George, is POOR on the ball.
      It reminds me of Hart, who although I liked, spoke about having the team press high, when you had the LAZY Kenwyn Jones up top.
      Humphrey could be criticized for sending a poor ball in field, but George showed no inclination to give support. Only one example.
      Nathan Lewis also works hard and has some good qualities, but it’s a waste of time looking for him to finish any play or provide that last decisive pass. I reckon that’s why he got little playing time and is no longer in the USL top tier.

    • At the senior level…packing 11 men behind a ball and hoping for a draw is not a tactics….if you want to be possession based than you have to TRY and play possession….pass move support…grassroots stuff…..DL you’re a rubbish coach unfortunately

  27. Ppl still gonna come and criticize Dennis Lawrence .

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