2026WCQ: Shell-shocked Soca Warriors forced to fight back to hold Grenada 2-2 in POS

Trinidad and Tobago’s hoodoo against the Grenada Men’s National Senior Team continued last night, as the Soca Warriors had to settle for a 2-2 draw at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain in their opening 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifying match.

Grenada came to the Port of Spain on the back of a 10-match winless streak. The “Spice Islanders” have not won a football match since 5 October 2022, while their last four matches—against Saint Vincent, Suriname, Jamaica and Honduras—all ended in defeat with one goal scored and 15 conceded.

Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Daniel Phillips (left) towers over a Grenada opponent to win a header during 2026 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 5 June 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Yet, remarkably, they led the Soca Warriors 2-0 at one stage in the match and might easily have had a third too.

There were just over 8,000 enthusiastic supporters at the Hasely Crawford Stadium and a positive attitude, for what was the Men’s National Senior Team’s first competitive home match under new president Kieron Edwards.


However, coach Angus Eve’s team could not rise to the occasion.

The self-titled “Pragmatic One” has often frustrated fans with conservative line-ups but that could hardly be the case last night.

The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team pose before kickoff against Grenada in 2026 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 5 June 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Trinidad and Tobago used an attacking trio of Levi Garcia, Reon Moore and Ryan Telfer supported by adventurous midfielders Ajani Fortune and Noah Powder, with buccaneering full backs Andre Raymond and Shannon Gomez to boot.

Arguably, that only accentuated Trinidad and Tobago’s real problem. Eve’s team had no clear way of getting the ball safely to the attackers.

From the time Grenada threatened to press by putting players into Trinidad and Tobago’s more obvious passing lanes, the host team blinked and started to go long.

And from about the 10th minute, the Spice Islanders were stroking the ball as though they were in Saint George’s, with the Warriors appearing unsure about how to regain possession beyond waiting for a bad pass.

Trinidad and Tobago football fans react to the action during their 2026 World Cup qualifier against Grenada at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 5 June 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Still, the visitors were fortunate about their opening goal. Where exactly did Guatemalan referee Mario Escobar expect Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Daniel Phillips to put his hand, when opposing left back Josh Gabriel fired the ball at home from point blank range?

Journeyman England-born midfielder Myles Hippolyte comprehensively beat Warriors goalkeeper Denzil Smith from the spot to put Grenada ahead in the 25th minute.

Hippolyte was one of five overseas-based players in the Grenada team. None campaign in the top flight.

Grenada midfielder Myles Hippolyte (right) passes for a teammate while Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Noah Powder keeps watch during 2026 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 5 June 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Hippolyte was last contracted by English fourth tier team, AFC Wimbledon, while captain Omar Beckles and forward Lucas Akins play in England’s third tier, flanker Darius Johnson is a second division player in the Netherlands.

The rest, including Chelmsford City winger Jermaine Francis, are amateur footballers.

In contrast, Trinidad and Tobago had two TTPFL players (goalkeeper Denzil Smith and defender Justin Garcia) with eight of their starting teammates playing professionally abroad—which includes Levi Garcia, Ajani Fortune, captain Aubrey David and Phillips, who are all top flight players in their respective countries of employment.

The Grenada Men’s National Senior Team pose before kickoff against Trinidad and Tobago in the opening Group B World Cup qualifying group match at Port of Spain on 5 June 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Trinidad and Tobago’s issues last night, at least in relation to Grenada, could not be put down to a shortage of talent.

Yet, remarkably, they fell two goals behind in the 28th minute, as Grenada flanker Jermaine Francis held off Raymond to drive the ball into the opposing area. And, as the Warriors failed to clear, Hippolyte pounced with a measured volley.

Eve responded by moving Levi from the right flank to the centre with Reon Moore moving wide. It did not seem to have much impact either way.

Trinidad and Tobago attacker Levi Garcia (left) is manhandled by Grenada left back Josh Gabriel during 2026 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 5 June 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Grenada nearly got a third in the 40th minute, as Johnson overpowered Gomez only to be thwarted by an alert Smith. What is going on here?

But the Spice Islanders’ gung-ho attacking style, as they poured numbers forward at every opportunity, caught up with them.

In the 43rd minute, when they ought to have been locking up shop in anticipation of the halftime whistle, Grenada lost possession with more than half their team in advanced positions. And it took two swift passes before Powder released Telfer to halve the deficit from close range.

Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Ajani Fortune (centre) looks to dribble around Grenada midfielder Shavon John-Brown (right) during 2026 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 5 June 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Levi, who took a battering from the gigantic Gabriel in the first half, did not return to the field while Powder was also replaced with midfielder Andre Rampersad and right back Alvin Jones coming in.

And Eve asked Gomez to play as a right winger when Trinidad and Tobago had possession and tuck into midfield to mark an opponent when Grenada were on the ball.

It would seem obvious that Reon Moore or Nathaniel James would be far more effective as an attacking winger while Eve might have deployed Moore wide and introduced substitute Kevon Woodley at centre forward.

Trinidad and Tobago full back Shannon Gomez (left) tries to turn away from Grenada left back Josh Gabriel during 2026 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 5 June 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

But, to be fair, none of them would have worked backwards like Gomez. And, as Trinidad and Tobago began marking man-to-man in the midfield, Grenada’s offence finally seemed stunted.

Well, mostly. Grenada might have stretched their lead again in the 59th minute, as powerful centre forward Lucas Akins played Francis clear—only for Smith to make another vital save.

And in the 64th minute, Akins was just wide with a blistering strike after a Raymond turnover.

Grenada forward Lucas Akins (foreground) holds off Trinidad and Tobago defender Justin Garcia during 2026 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 5 June 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

The 35-year-old Akins, a English third tier player with Mansfield Town, gave David a torrid time all night. That is high praise in these parts.

By now, Trinidad and Tobago were carving out chances with more regularity themselves.

Raymond blasted an angled effort into the side netting in the 65th minute, while Grenada goalkeeper Jason Belfon was just able to keep out Moore in the 71st minute—following a slipped pass from Telfer.

Trinidad and Tobago attacker Reon Moore (left) tries to get awayfrom Grenada midfielder Kwazim Theodore during 2026 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 5 June 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

But Belfon, a former Club Sando and W Connection custodian, was powerless to stop Moore in the 74th minute after a long diagonal ball from Andre Raymond sent the Canada-based forward free. And Moore buried his effort home at the near post to pull Trinidad and Tobago level.

The fact that Grenada was still susceptible to something as simple as a long, diagonal ball—despite being ahead—shows that the Spice Islands did not exactly have an exit strategy.

They just kept attacking.

Grenada flanker Jermaine Francis (left) drives his shot past Trinidad and Tobago attacker Reon Moore during 2026 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 5 June 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Eve replaced Gomez with Gill now. But, as noted earlier, there was still the issue of getting the ball safely to the Trinidad and Tobago attackers in the right areas of the field.

The Warriors were still relying on long passes. Both teams had late chances to snatch a winner. But, in the end, a draw felt fair. It was the fourth straight draw between the two Caribbean nations, with Trinidad and Tobago’ last win against Grenada now as far back as 27 April 2008.

The match stats, according to Sofascore, credited Trinidad and Tobago with 54% possession while Grenada had 17 shots to 16 and three big chances created to two from the host nation.

Trinidad and Tobago head coach Angus Eve.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Eve’s Warriors attempted 74 long balls but were successful with just 28 of them at 38%. Grenada tried 66 long balls and had a 44% completion rate. Both teams had 10 shots in the opposing penalty area.

It was an undistinguished start for the Warriors.

Two teams will qualify from Group B and Costa Rica are favourites to finish first. It leaves Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, and Saint Kitts and Nevis as the most likely challengers for the other spot.

Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Ajani Fortune (background) runs at Grenada midfielder Kwazim Theodore during 2026 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 5 June 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Crucially, teams face each other just once in this round and the Warriors are home against Saint Kitts and Nevis too. With Grenada unlikely to go on a winning spree, the Warriors have some wiggle room in terms of dropping a few points before it reaches crisis proportions.

But they would not want to return home this weekend without three points.

(Squads)

Trinidad and Tobago (4-3-3): 22.Denzil Smith (GK); 14.Shannon Gomez (10.Real Gill 78), 2.Aubrey David (captain), 17.Justin Garcia, 6.Andre Raymond (3.Triston Hodge 78); 8.Noah Powder (16.Alvin Jones 46), 4.Daniel Phillips, 20.Ajani Fortune (9.Nathaniel James 66); 13.Reon Moore, 11.Levi Garcia (18.Andre Rampersad 46), 7.Ryan Telfer.

Unused substitutes: 1.Christopher Biggette (GK), 21.Aaron Enill (GK), 5.Duane Muckette, 12.Steffen Yeates, 15.Dantaye Gilbert, 19.Malcolm Shaw, 23.Kevon Woodley.

Standbys: Josiah Trimmingham, Michel Poon-Angeron.

Coach: Angus Eve

Grenada (4-2-3-1): 1.Jason Belfon (GK); 2.Benjamin Ettienne (13.Steffon Abraham 87), 4.Kayden Harrack, 5.Omar Beckles (captain), 21.Josh Gabriel; 19.Kwazim Theodore, 8.Myles Hippolyte (23.Jamal Charles 87); 15.Jermaine Francis (10.Saydrel Lewis 79), 11.Shavon John-Brown (7.Romar Frank 87), 20.Darius Johnson (16.Keishon Clarke 87), 9.Lucas Akins.

Unused substitutes: 12.Chad Phillip (GK), 22.Trishawn Thomas (GK), 3.Brady Charles, 6.Dorrel Pierre, 14.Jamie Kabuusu,  17.Trevon Williams, 18.Vijay Valcin.

Coach: Shalrie Joseph

Referee: Mario Escobar (Guatemala)

World Cup qualifier

(5 June 2024)

Trinidad and Tobago 2 (Ryan Telfer 43, Reon Moore 74), Grenada 2 (Myles Hippolyte 25 pen, 28) at Hasely Crawford Stadium.

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2 comments

  1. This is what they kept Eve for, so we could continue coming up short at crucial moments. Additionally, this is the result of normalization. For our football to drop in standard and show us up on the world stage.

    • The coach seems inept and devoid of ideas. There are talented players who were not used. In fact, there is a good midfielder Gilbert who plays for the Dutch team Jong PSV whose style is typically based on short passing. Would he not haven been a solution to the obvious inability of the other midfielders to effectively distribute the ball?
      Unfortunately a lack of funding prevents us from hiring a proper manager, but hopefully this can be quickly rectified.

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