A few months ago, when the Trinidad and Tobago government granted asylum-seeking Venezuelans temporary residence, many joked that the Venezuelans had now made this country their own.
Last night, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, the Venezuela Under-15 team definitely looked at home as they bossed and outclassed the Trinidad and Tobago Under-15 team for 90 minutes in front of 3,500 home supporters.
The end result: A thumping and well-deserved 4-nil victory for Venezuela and a second consecutive defeat for the hosts in the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) Youth Invitational Tournament.
Against Panama at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Wednesday, the “Young Warriors” traded punches before eventually succumbing to a 5-4 defeat in a thrilling encounter. Last night, however, with a host of changes to coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier’s starting line-up, there was no such fight from the hosts. They gave away possession meekly in the final third, were toothless in attack and were second to practically every loose ball.
After the match, Venezuela coach Frank Tamanaco Piedrahita told the media that he was pleasantly surprised by the home team’s showing against Panama and was wary of their threat going into yesterday’s encounter.
However, apart from a fifth-minute sequence where Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Molik Jesse Khan brought a fine save out of custodian Frankarlos Gutierrez, after a lovely link-up with winger Abdul-Quddoos Hypolite, the hosts never really got a footing in the encounter.
Santa Cruz United goalkeeper Tristan Edwards was busy from the offing in the Trinidad and Tobago goal, and it seemed as though he could be a hero on the night. But even that was temporary.
The hosts tried to implement a passing style which saw them building from the back through Edwards, central defenders Jaron Pascall and Tristan Stafford and wing back Isaiah Thompson. But the boys in “red, white and black” never looked assured with the short passing game, and they played right into the hands of Venezuela’s press.
In the 18th minute, Edwards sent his Santa Cruz United posse into an uproar with an acrobatic save to keep out a meaty effort by Deivi Hernandez. However, Hernandez, whose persistence, poise and strong hold-up play made him a thorn in T&T’s side all night, banged home the opening item from close range in the 22nd minute, after another giveaway by the hosts in the final third and a couple of impressive saves by Edwards.
After narrowly losing out to Panama on Wednesday, Charles-Fevrier knocked the team’s penchant for giving away possession cheaply. Last night, Charles-Fevrier highlighted the team’s inability to handle Venezuela’s slick passing game and robust approach.
“I thought we were very disappointing tonight, to be honest. Venezuela were definitely better than us and they deserved to win the game,” Charles-Fevrier said. “It’s the first time we’re playing against that [South American] style of play and, for me, we should play more against teams who play that style of football because our players had problems coping with the movement and the rotation of the Venezuelans – the way they support the ball, the way they always have numbers around the ball, the way they rotate.”
Khan apart, few Trinidad and Tobago players seemed up for the occasion. The Naparima College youngster was slick on the turn and tried his utmost to create from his midfield base. However, it was always a tall order for the hosts.
On the rare occasions their risky short passing at the back evaded the Venezuelan press, Trinidad and Tobago’s outlet balls often went to Hypolite and lone striker Caleb Borneo, the two tiniest players on the field. Hypolite tried in earnest in his matchup against left back Adrian Jose, however, apart from Hypolite’s early burst down the right, the Venezuelan defender was rarely troubled.
Meanwhile, Borneo never had a prayer, dwarfed by the central defensive duo of Nicolas Morillo and Carlos Torres for much of the encounter, his time was mostly spent chasing shadows.
It meant that T&T spent most of the 90 minutes camped in their own half. It was only a matter of time before the pressure told.
After an impressive start, Edwards had a gaffe in the 44th minute, as he found himself in no-man’s land following a Venezuela corner. Torres profited as he squirted a close-range effort over the custodian and into the back of the net.
Two-nil down at the half and Venezuela clearly a notch above the hosts, one would have expected a flurry of changes at the start of the second period. However, the only change for the “Young Warriors” saw Jaheim Faustin replacing Hypolite.
Charles-Fevrier suggested that tournament rules prevented him from using his strongest possible team.
“This tournament is a preparation tournament. Today I had to rotate the team because every player must get 60 minutes playing time, so I could not have started the game with our best possible team,” Charles-Fevrier said. “But having said that, I was happy to start the other players and I didn’t have a problem with it because I think it’s good that every player gets the chance to develop. Yes, we’d like to win, but it’s about development just as much as trying to win.”
This current National Under-15 crop is the product of the TTFA Elite Youth program and they have received much praise in the football quarters, touted as a group to watch for the future. However, as evidenced by their two losses in the TTFA Invitational Tournament thus far, there are clearly some defensive frailties and much work still to be done on their structural play and possession game.
On the flip side, Piedrahita, through a translator, indicated that the Venezuelan team that turned out last night is still fairly new to him, as he and his technical staff continue to search the country for the right group of players to contest CONMEBOL’s Under-15 Championships in November.
“This is the third module of our Under-15 team,” Piedrahita said. “In November last year, we put together one Under-15 group and played with them. In April this year, we put together the second group. This is the third module. We put together this group about a month ago. We have been playing together about a month now.”
Unless Piedrahita’s message was lost in translation, it is a revelation which does not read too well for the local team.
However, Charles-Fevrier does not want to harp on the results too much. He wants his team to perform at a level which rightly mirrors their capability.
“We still depend too much on individual play. The Venezuelans play a more collective game. We’re still depending too much on individual brilliance of a player or something like that to get through,” Charles-Fevirier said. “We have to be more collective. We’re definitely better than this because I’ve seen our boys play much better than this.”
Although there were no points at stake, in the second half, the visitors conspired to rob the hosts of pride as well.
By the 62nd minute, Charles-Fevrier had inserted team captain Jaheim Marshall, as well as the attacking trio of Nathaniel James, Ja-Shawn Thomas and Josiah Wilson. However, that did little to improve Trinidad and Tobago’s fortunes.
Hernandez and his strike partner Klinsmann Gomez were buzzing up top, while flanker Santiago Tarano was lively down the left, striking the woodwork twice in the encounter. The Venezuelans dictated the pace of the game to their liking, and in the 77th minute, they put the contest beyond all doubt when Gomez curled home a gorgeous right-footed shot from just inside the area. In the final minute of stoppage time, the visitors rubbed salt in T&T’s wounds when substitute Edwin Britto squirted a close-range effort under Edwards after a patient build-up.
It was the final nail in the coffin in this encounter, sure to raise many questions about the TTFA Youth Elite program going forward. And it doesn’t get any easier, with the challenge of Mexico awaiting Trinidad and Tobago’s youngsters tomorrow.
“I don’t think [our problem is] discipline. I think our players need to improve in terms of their knowledge, tactically. And that’s what we have been working on, to improve the players’ knowledge of the game from a tactical standpoint,” Charles-Fevrier said.
“All of these [Mexican and Venezuelan] players are with professional clubs and they play ten months of football. Their season is just like the senior footballers. So as youngsters, they grow up as professionals,” Charles-Fevrier continued. “Our culture is different. But we have to compete against them. We have to play more against the Central American and North American teams instead of the Caribbean opposition. If we are progress in our football and qualify for international competitions, these are the teams we have to play against.”
And what does Charles-Fevrier make of the potential backlash his team could face for their showing to date?
“I will not put any pressure on the boys. Whatever pressure there is I’ll take it. I will take full responsibility. I will take the pressure, it’s not a problem.”
Trinidad and Tobago (4-3-3): 18.Tristan Edwards (GK); 19.Isaiah Thompson, 4.Jaron Pascall (6.Jaheim Marshall 62), 12.Tristan Stafford (5.Tyrik Trotman 68), 3.Dawn St Rose; 8.Molik Jesse Khan (10.Nathaniel James 62), 13.Kassidy Davidson, 15.Dantaye Gilbert; 7.Abdul-Quddoos Hypolite (17.Jaheim Faustin halftime), 16.Caleb Borneo (9.Ja-Shawn Thomas 62), 14.Jovonn Gomes (11.Josiah Wilson 62).
Unused Substitutes: 1.Kanye Lazarus (GK), 2.Christian Bailey.
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Venezuela (4-4-2): 12.Frankarlos Gutierrez (GK); 2.Alex Fernandez (13.Alex Cacique 81), (captain), 4.Nicolas Morillo, 15.Carlos Torres (5.Javier Torres 85), 3.Adrian Jose; 18.Luis Zambrano (10.Jesus Anuel 66), 14.Sebastian Marin, 8.Cesar Correia, 17.Santiago Tarano (19.Lewuis Diaz 66); 11.Deivi Hernandez (9.Carlos Gonzalez 85), 7.Klinsmann Gomez (16.Edwin Britto 81).
Unused Substitutes: 1.Kelvin Garcia (GK), 6.Aaron Perez.
Coach: Frank Tamanaco Piedrahita
TTFA Invitational Youth Tournament
Mexico 1 (Kevin Madrigal 42), Panama 1 (Reymundo Williams 19) at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Trinidad and Tobago 0, Venezuela 4 (Deivi Hernandez 22, Carlos Torres 44, Klinsmann Gomez 77, Edwin Britto 90+4) at Hasely Crawford Stadium.