The statement carries much joy for the football lovers of this country and even throughout the Caribbean. After six matches played in the hexagon, it was clear that our national team would not qualify for Russia.
With two games to go, the sport loving public actually dropped their guard when coach Dennis Lawrence decided to make drastic changes to the team which has been failing to get to the winning pole.
His catch phrase was “eleven starting players” were dropped and the focus in the selection process will be on the World Cup 2022 in Qatar.
But as we looked at the names on the sheet, there were many who have been on the field during the 2018 campaign.
The news of some naughty players breaking the rules may have led the coach to take the irresponsible behaviour of the guilty and decided to veer away from them for the final two matches.
Nevertheless, Mexico and the USA could not be considered walkovers and the fans became jumpy as to who will take the field against Mexico. The story of a good performance by T&T public after the team’s 3-1 loss was much better than previous matches.
However, the majority of players were in the squad previously, except the newcomers Adrian Foncette, Kevon Villaroel, and to a lesser extent Shahdon Winchester.
The team started well and the brilliance of goalkeeper Foncette left us with a chance to hold a lead to victory. It did not happen, but the memory of excellent defensive play and the commitment displayed during the match revealed that the team could have done much better.
Away from home and against a highly ranked Mexico, was a fine effort by the Soca Warriors. The USA did not take notice of the T&T players change in attitude and speed level which showed up.
The USA came to Couva with only victory in mind, simply because they are following history of the past encounters, 1989 in particular.
It all started when the Americans attempted to utilise their mandatory practice session at the Ato Boldon Stadium to demoralised not just the T&T team, but the country by taking their protest of a waterlogged Athletic track to social media in which they posted players walking through water while others gave jockey backs to teammates as they crossed the athletic track onto the playing area. Their posts even made it to the traditional news media outlets in the USA and they did not forget to highlight the plight of their team.
USA coach Bruce Arena’s comment seemed realistic when he said, “both teams have to use the same field, so it is no problem.”
On game day it was a heavy surface, no water, as the conditions suited skilled players with quick feet.
The US players came with a certain degree of over confidence and kept on chatting over what they felt was a certain result. “We only need a draw, we are going for victory against the last placed country in our group.”
What they missed was the change of attitude demanded by T&T coach of his players. The speed of Lewis, and Caesar, the creativity of Leston Paul and Kareem Hyland, plus an energetic goalkeeper in Foncette, whose challenges in life very nearly ended his career by accident, be good enough. Did they observe the strength of the Warrior’s defence-line for seventy minutes of the Mexican Game?
They were too busy reciting their code message,” fait accomplit,” a feature which may have derailed their thoughts and taken them into victory road well before the match.
Coach Lawrence did his job well and in hindsight, many of us could not see exactly why some of the experienced players were omitted. A courageous decision, but the type which good coaches make.
It is history now. It is not about the Yanks whose desire to highlight our rainy situations.
This country did not qualify. Neither did the USA. However, I can’t help but feel that we learnt more lessons from the challenges that our team faced during our efforts to reach Russia.
Our next step could well provide the value of the lessons learnt, especially the commitment of our players who may now realise that talent is nothing with commitment and courage to be team players. We now look to prepare for the future.
Well Done, Soca Warriors.