Trinidad and Tobago were eliminated from the 2021 Concacaf Futsal Championship last night after two successive group stage defeats against the Dominican Republic (6-2) and Guatemala (4-3) respectively.
But the Soca Warriors can claim to have left their mark in the confederation’s showcase tournament regardless, after an extraordinary goal from 20-year-old player Ché Benny.
Benny, a former National Under-20 Team midfielder, is still seeking his first outdoor senior cap and hopes to play his way into coach Terry Fenwick’s team for the Qatar World Cup qualifying campign. He might already be a futsal legend though, after scoring an inch perfect lob from his own area that left Guatemala custodian Lester Arevalo clawing at air.
Trinidad and Tobago were on the backfoot at the time, as goalkeeper Andre Marchan made a fine reflex save to repel a Guatemalan attack. The rebound fell to Benny.
Cool as you like, Benny took one glance up the pitch before embarrassing Arevalo with a finish from 40-odd yards to confound anyone who had not seen him play for St Anthony’s College in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL).
Guatemala, playing at home and one of only four nations to win a Concacaf Futsal tournament, arguably never fully regained their poise. Or, to be fair, the Warriors did not let them.
Alan Aguilar equalised for Guatemala after a rapid-fire exchange of passes that was more typical of the indoor game in the 11th minute, while captain José Mansilla put the hosts ahead seconds later, after Trinidad and Tobago’s Aaron Lester lost possession twice in one play.
Guatemala would have expected normal service to resume at that point. They whipped the Warriors 5-0 on the last occasion that the two nations clashed in 2008.
Yet, improbably, Trinidad and Tobago levelled late in the first half, as Benny stole possession from opposing playmaker Edgar Santizo and Darius Olliviera relayed the ball to Jameel Neptune who swept it home first time.
Guatemala were back ahead within seconds of the restart but Trinidad and Tobago, now emboldened, had long shed any inferiority complex.
Coach Constantine Konstin’s team were not playing futsal in the traditional sense. Rather than constant ball movement, flicks and dinks in the search of shooting space in the opposing dome, Trinidad and Tobago’s game was built on long lofted passes, an athletic defensive press and a shoot-on-sight strategy.
And, in the 34th minute, the Warriors levelled again with Benny driving into the corner from a more orthodox distance, after an interception by Olliviera—an outfield player for Defence Force.
Neptune, Trinidad and Tobago’s only player with prior Futsal tournament experience, came within a whisker of a famous item as he stole the ball from Marvin Sandoval; but he could not complete his dribble around Arevalo.
Benny too was denied by Arevalo, with the hosts clearly rattled.
By then, the Trinidad and Tobago players knew they were not going to get the four goals necessary to get into the second round—but that was always improbable. They were playing for pride.
In the end, though, traditional futsal won.
The Warriors lost the ball while taking a corner kick and Santizo, built like a giant teddybear, ambled forward, faked to win himself a yard or space and slipped a pass for Aguilar to squeeze in the winner on the counter-attack.
Aguilar pointed both forefingers to the heavens, as the hosts breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Trinidad and Tobago had lost again. But Guatemala knew they were in a game.
Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Futsal Team: 1.Andre Marchan (GK), 2.Kern Caeser (GK), 11.Willis Plaza, 13.Dwight Quintero, 10.Mark Ramdeen, 6.Dylon King, 14.Aaron Lester, 4.Sean De Silva, 8.Jameel Neptune, 12.Keston George, Keron Cummings, 5.Che Benny, 9.Adrian Welch, 7.Darius Olliviera.
Staff: Constantine Konstin (head coach), Paul Decle (assistant coach), Dunstan Williams (goalkeeper coach), Nigel Roberts (manager), Stephen Bernard (equipment manager), Mark Lewis (trainer), Roger Ryan (medic).