The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team will kick off their Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign on home soil on 25 March against Guyana, as Concacaf confirmed the schedule for its opening round of matches today.
The Warriors are drawn in Group F of a preliminary Concacaf bracket alongside St Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Puerto Rico, and Bahamas.
The Soca Warriors drew both meetings with the ‘Golden Jaguars’ under former head coach Dennis Lawrence, with their last fixture being a 1-1 draw at the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup tournament.
Current head coach Terry Fenwick is happy to play his competitive international match on home soil, although he warned fans that they should not expect a cakewalk.
“Being at home in the opening game is good and we will prepare as best as possible for this first game against Guyana,” Fenwick told the TTFA Media, “which we know has a bit of history with Trinidad and Tobago and will certainly be no push overs. Matter of fact, no team will be a walk over in these qualifiers.”
Trinidad and Tobago spent much of the year in limbo due to Fifa’s removal of the TTFA elected officials on 17 March. However, the Covid-19 pandemic scuppered much chance of playing time for the Warriors in any case.
The government granted an exemption to allow Fenwick to restart training last month and the former England World Cup defender said the lifting of a Fifa suspension, on 19 November, and reactivation of a Fifa-appointed normalisation committee—headed by chairman Robert Hadad—was an important step for his squad.
“With this schedule before us now it tells you how important it was for us to have gotten the suspension lifted and having the normalisation committee in charge of our football,” said Fenwick. “I know for a fact that chairman Robert Hadad and the rest of the normalisation committee are at work and are putting things together for us to be able to breathe a bit easier and for all the right conditions to be in place for our teams.
“I’m grateful that we’d been able to restart training last month and now we can look forward to executing our plans ahead of March.”
Trinidad and Tobago has an excellent head-to-head record against Guyana with 14 wins, 6 draws and just two losses since they both faced each other in 1978. However, one of those defeats eliminated the Warriors from the opening stage of the 2014 World Cup qualifying series, while their last two meetings ended in draws.
Guyana had English coach Michael Johnson on their bench when they held Trinidad and Tobago 1-1 last year.
The Jaguars will be led in this campaign by journeyman Brazilian coach Márcio Máximo Barcellos, who once steered the Brazil National under-17 and Under-20 Teams and coached former stand-out defender Marvin Andrews at Scotland Premier League club, Livingston.
The Warriors are the highest ranked team in their group at 103rd in the world, followed by St Kitts and Nevis (140), Guyana (167) and Puerto Rico (179).
Twenty-nine year-old West Brom midfielder Romaine Sawyers has 26 international caps for St Kitts and is likely to feature for the ‘Sugar Boyz’ in this campaign.
Trinidad and Tobago’s own success is likely to owe much to the gifted MLS duo of Kevin Molino (Minnesota United) and Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders), as well as AEK Athens flanker Levi Garcia.
Molino and Jones face each other on club duty in the MLS Western Conference final on Monday.
Molino is Trinidad and Tobago’s highest current international scorer with 21 goals from 50 appearances.
Only the winning nation advances from Group F with the other teams being immediately eliminated.
(Trinidad and Tobago’s Group F schedule)
Trinidad and Tobago v Guyana, 25 March,
Puerto Rico v Trinidad and Tobago, 28 March;
Bahamas v Trinidad and Tobago, 5 June;
Trinidad and Tobago v St Kitts and Nevis, 8 June.
Editor’s Note: The home team is listed first.