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Qatar W/Cup qualifiers start in Oct, T&T may be forced to concede home advantage

Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick will make his international coaching debut in the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying series this October. And, more likely than not, it will be away from home.

Concacaf today confirmed changes to its 2022 qualifiers, which spelt good and bad news for the Soca Warriors.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick oversees practice at the Police Barracks in St James on 3 July 2020.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

The rejigged qualifying format is more straightforward than Concacaf’s controversial initial proposal, which split the confederation in two with the latter category—inclusive of the Warriors—being unable to get to the final Hex. This is no longer applicable.

However, the current format sees Concacaf’s bottom 30 nations begin qualifying action in October. And, should Trinidad and Tobago’s borders remain closed, Fenwick will almost certainly play all his games on the road.

Trinidad and Tobago’s current mandatory 14-day quarantine period would be a non-starter, even for an extended 21-day Fifa match window, since all nations are expected to play four games during that period.

Concacaf’s top five nations, Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras respectively, all advance straight to the final qualifying round of eight teams. But the rest must navigate two stages to get there.

Nations ranked sixth to 12th in Concacaf were seeded for the first qualifying round. Trinidad and Tobago, who are ranked 105th in the world, edged Antigua and Barbuda to the final seed.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Kevin Molino (right) flicks his third goal past Dominican Republic goalkeeper Miguel Lloyd during the 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying round.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The seeds for the first qualifying round are: (A) El Salvador, (B) Canada, (C) Curaçao, (D) Panama, (E) Haiti and (F) Trinidad and Tobago. Each group will consist of five nations with each team facing the other just once. Two games are scheduled to be played at home and two abroad.

Concacaf will host its draw for the first round grouping in mid-August. Trinidad and Tobago’s potential group rivals include Antigua and Barbuda, Guatemala, Grenada, Barbados, Guyana, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Dominican Republic.

In Trinidad and Tobago’s most recent games against Guyana, Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines under former coach Dennis Lawrence, the Warriors failed to muster a single win, with four draws and one loss.

Should the Warriors top Group F, they will face the winner of El Salvador’s group for a place in the third and final round—which replaces the Hex.

The second Concacaf qualifying round features:

  • Group A winner vs Group F winner
  • Group B winner vs Group E winner
  • Group C winner vs Group D winner
Photo: Grenada winger Ricky Modeste (left) holds off Trinidad and Tobago right back Alvin Jones during international friendly action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 11 November 2017.
The two nations played to a 2-2 draw.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

The top three teams from the second round will join Concacaf’s top five nations for the final round. There, the eight teams will play each other, on a home and away basis, with three and a half World Cup qualifying places at stake.

Concacaf also confirmed that its next Gold Cup tournament will kick off on 10 July 2021, with the remaining play-offs due to be held immediately before the competition in the United States.

“Concacaf will now work towards creating a centralised Gold Cup preliminary round for those teams which had been due to play the Road to Gold Cup qualifiers,” stated Concacaf. “This will take place in the United States in the week before the commencement of the Gold Cup group stages. Further details on the format and schedule of this preliminary round will be provided in the coming weeks.”

The Warriors are due to face the winner between Barbados and Guyana for a solitary Gold Cup play-off spot. At present, Barbados are coached by legendary Trinidad and Tobago football and 2006 World Cup player Russell ‘the Little Magician’ Latapy.

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