Trinidad and Tobago’s Under 22 men’s team will be aiming to defy the odds when they kick off their 2011 Pan American Games Group A campaign against South America’s Uruguay from 1pm (2pm T&T Time) at the OmniLife Stadium in Guadalajara, Mexico on Wednesday.
The 18-member squad led by head coach Angus Eve arrived in the games city at around 3am on Tuesday via Panama City on a Copa Airlines fight loaded with athletes and officials from other countries for the games and were met by tournament officials who subsequently ensured all arrangements were in place for the team’s arrival.
The Games village is abuzz with activity with some 6,000 athletes from 42 countries all converging to participate in 36 sports running from October 14-30 in one of the largest multi-sport event worldwide for 2011.
Following T&T’s clash, Fellow Group A opponents Mexico and Ecuador will clash at 8pm at the same venue. Between those two games, South American giants Argentina and Brazil will clash also at the same venue.
Eve said ahead of the game that he was expecting a tough assignment which was just what his team needed ahead of next month’s Caribbean Football Union final Olympic qualifying round in St Kitts/Nevis.
“We know it’s going to be tough because of the history of Uruguay but we are not going to be intimidated by our opponents in this tournament.
We have nothing to lose here. We have guys who are capable of playing well and if we put our minds to it then we can achieve a measure of success here with some surprises,” Eve told TTFF Media.
“We are going to be cautious as we don’t know much about the opposition in terms of the current team and haven’t s seen them play.
But what we know if Uruguay is that they like to keep possession with a lot of movement so we will try to play as compact as possible and then look for the break when it comes.
In saying that I think it’s a great opportunity for the guys to test themselves against higher opposition. Some of the boys would have played Paraguay at the FIFA Under 20 World Cup in Egypt so they would know what it is to face these kind of opponents in international tournaments,” added the former national senior team captain.
T&T will be banking on some of the players who have already appeared for the T&T senior team or have been involved in training.
The likes of US-based midfielder Kevin Molino (one goal in six matches), Joevin Jones (11 matches), Shahdon Winchester (two matches), Jamal Gay (two goals in 10 matches), Mekeil Williams, Micah Lewis and team captain Sheldon Bateau have all at some point or the other played or trained with the senior team.
Eve spoke of Molino’s addition to the team, saying “This is a good opportunity to see him work with the guys. Once a player like him comes back into a team the other local-based players always tend to look up to him.
He is a good, intelligent player and he brings a lot of leadership qualities and ball possession capabilities as well. Generally the team is well rounded and this tournament is going to present an opportunity for some of the boys to get that quality time on the pitch against the likes of Mexico and Uruguay.”
T&T has the distinction of topping its group at the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg ahead of Colombia, Argentina and Mexico.
T&T shut out Colombia 5-2 in its opening match before defeating Argentina 1-0 and drawing 1-1 with Mexico. But a 3-1 loss to surprise team Bermuda led by Clyde Best in the semi-finals meant that T&T had to settle for the bronze medal after beating Canada 4-1 in the playoff.
That team was skippered by Sedley Joseph and included the likes of former greats Alvin Corneal, Bobby Sookram, Lincoln Phillips, Jena Mouttet, Selwyn Murren, Tyrone De La Bastide, Pat Small, Kelvin Berassa, Andy Aleong, Victor Gamaldo among others. Conrad Braithwaite was the coach of the team then.
For skipper Bateau, who has played at an Under 17 and Under 20 FIFA World Cup, results like that of the 1967 squad can only inspire him and his teammates.
“I’ve heard about how well that team in 1967 and it included some big players who I never had the chance to see play but I’ve heard of them. Hopefully we can produce something similar.
It’s going to be tough because the teams are all of a high quality. But in saying that, we will give it our all and try to at least produce the goods on the pitch and come up with a decent result,” Bateau said.
The T&T team was scheduled to train at 5pm on Tuesday. T&T will also face Mexico on Friday and Ecuador on Sunday at the same venue. The Pan American Games are being broadcasted live on ESPN 3
The T&T Women’s team lost to Colombia 1-0 on Tuesday at OmniLife Stadium.
UPDATE - Due to the non arrival of the Uruguay team, the T&T team management has been advised that Wednesday's match will not be played on schedule. Further details will be announced in due course. Clouds of ash spewing from Chile's Puyehue volcano forced flights in Uruguay and Argentina to be grounded.