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Eve: Conditions affected T&T U-20’s “passing game” against Mexico; Concacaf assigns fresh ground for Suriname showdown

Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Under-20 Team will play their final Concacaf Under-20 Championship group match against Suriname at the Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula, rather than the weather-beaten Estadio Morazan venue.

The two Caribbean Football Union (CFU) outfits clash for the last remaining Round of 16 berth from 6pm (TT time) on Thursday. The Junior Soca Warriors will advance to the knockout round with just a draw while Suriname need all three points.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender-cum-midfielder Noah Roka (left) looks to initiate an attacking move during Concacaf U-20 Championship action against Mexico at San Pedro Sula on 21 June 2022.
(via TTFA Media)

Trinidad and Tobago were whipped 5-0 by Mexico last night in muddy conditions at the Estadio Morazan. Head coach Angus Eve suggested that the heavy ground affected his troops’ “passing game” and better suited Mexico.

“We like to play a passing game and unfortunately the conditions didn’t suit that and we just did not adjust to that quickly enough,” Eve told the TTFA Media. “We don’t have big players, so we can’t play the high balls that they played—which more suited to the type of players that they had. 

“We like to play the ball at the feet… Unfortunately because of the conditions we couldn’t do that.”

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Trinidad and Tobago attempted and completed less passes than both of their opponents in the Concacaf Under-20 Championship so far. In their opening game against Haiti, which was more than halfway done before the rains came, the Warriors attempted 284 passes with an 82% accuracy rate. 

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Luke Phillip (left) tries to keep the ball from Haiti forward Steevenson Jeudy during Concacaf U-20 Championship action in San Pedro Sula on 19 June 2022.
(via TTFA Media)

Mexico, in contrast, made 490 passes on the soggy pitch later that night with a 90% accuracy rate. And, during their head to head on Tuesday night, Mexico made 318 passes with an 87% accuracy rate while 90% of Trinidad and Tobago’s 233 passes found their mark.

The North American team, however, travelled with two forwards built like old-school centre forwards, Esteban Lozano and Jesus Hernandez. Eve rotated between the diminutive duo of Real Gill and Nathaniel James at centre forward before he sent defender Isaiah Thompson upfront for the last 30 minutes.

Gill and James threatened sporadically—Thompson did not.

“I thought we started really well [and] we had them thinking,” said Eve. “[…] The difference in the game is one team used the conditions better than the other team; and sometimes we showed our inexperience in our play, [when] we gave up some really sloppy goals.

Photo: Mexico scorer Bryan Gonzales (left) is congratulated by teammates during their 5-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in Concacaf U-20 action in Honduras on 21 June 2022.
(via TTFA Media)

“It is a work in progress with the kids… [But] we are still in it, because we still have an opportunity to come out of our group and that was the main target when we came here.”

Eve now has a better surface to demonstrate the passing game that he says suits his players when they meet Suriname at the Estadio Olimpico. 

And Trinidad and Tobago have the advantage of knowing that a draw is enough to ensure their progress, although Eve insisted that they will play for all three points.

“[We are] going into the Suriname game very positive to try and get a result out of the game, because we are still in third place,” he said. “We said we had three finals to play when we came here. The first goal was to get out of the group stage and then see what we could do after that. Our destiny is still in our hands.

“We want to win the game and go into the [knockout] rounds on a high.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Angus Eve watches from the sidelines during Concacaf U-20 action against Mexico in Honduras on 21 June 2022.
(via TTFA Media)

Twelve from the 16 teams in the Concacaf U-20 Championship group stage advance to the knockout phase of the competition.

If Trinidad and Tobago manage a comfortable win over Suriname and Mexico thrash Haiti, the twin island republic will finish second in Group F and face Jamaica in the Round of 16 on Sunday.

If the Warriors draw with Suriname or win with the necessary number of goals, they would finish third and face Costa Rica in the knockout round on Saturday instead.

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