Trinidad and Tobago’s senior footballers will be hoping to make up some ground on the current Caribbean number one ranked team with a positive result in their friendly international against Antigua/Barbuda at the Sir Vivian Richards Grounds from 4:45pm on Wednesday.
The “Soca Warriors” are now the third ranked Caribbean team on the FIFA rankings with Haiti jumping ahead of them in the latest released ratings. The former Caribbean champions are 11th in CONCACAF and 85th on the world rankings. The number one ranked Caribbean team is Jamaica (world ranked 50th) which faces New Zealand in another friendly on Wednesday.
The current T&T side, minus all of its overseas-based players, arrived in Antigua on Tuesday morning and had an evening training session on the schedule for the encounter against a confident Antigua side that boasts of several UK-based players including Justin Cochrane, Marvin McCoy, Keiran Murtagh, Ashton Blackwood who is formerly of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspurs, and Dexter Blackstock of Nottingham Forest.
T&T, under interim head coach Hutson Charles, meantime has a couple more new faces from the squad that lost 3-2 to Finland last month.
T&TEC midfielder Bevon Bass was added to the roster at the expense of Andre Toussaint who had to leave the country on personal business, while Aubrey David replaced Curtis Gonzales and goalkeeper Kevin Graham came in for Cleon John. Defence Force’s Rodell Elcock, T&TEC’s Kerlon Ferguson and Jabloteh’s Jamal Jack are also among the newcomers.
The likes of skipper Marvin Phillip, midfielder Clyde Leon, striker Devorn Jorsling, Seon Power, Ataullah Guerra are those with any kind of notable international experience while Kevon Carter is back following injury. Daneil Cyrus will also be hoping to find match form following a lengthy lay off through injury.
“We have some young players but also some of the experienced guys like Clyde (Leon), Jorsling and Seon (Power) are in the squad and I believe we are capable of putting on a good showing,” Phillip told TTFF Media.
“Of course we want results also. We would like to win but I think at this point we are trying to identify some talent and get the right mix that can see us challenge the bigger teams in the region and help us get some jumps on the FIFA rankings as well,” added the T&TEC custodian.
Charles has similar feelings, saying “These teams like Antigua always look forward to facing us and the game will not be easy by any means. They are preparing for World Cup qualifiers while we are trying to groom some of our players for later down the road. There’s always something at stake in friendlies like this one and I know the players will want to ensure they can take something positive away from the match.”
The Antiguans meantime are priming up for 2014 World Cup qualifiers against United States, Guatemala and Jamaica in June. Their head coach Tom Curtis is expecting a good workout from T&T.
“They will be a tough side and I think they are still ranked above us in the Coca Cola FIFA Rankings so it is going to be a really tough game for us and it is a great opportunity for players to stake a claim for the national squad moving forward so it is a booked game and we are looking to organise friendlies going forward and we are pleased with what we have got at the moment,” said Curtis.
“It’s the first time we can get a squad together since the Haiti games. Many of the home-based players have been playing domestic football so I have had a good chance to look at them in an Antiguan environment, but I think what the game is about really is moving forward and looking forward to the international games on June 8 and 12 which are our next two competitive games so we are prepared and are looking forward to that,” he said.
A Jorsling 70th minute goal gave T&T a 1-0 win when the two countries last met in September 2010 at the Antigua Recreation Ground under head coach Russell Latapy. Current squad members Leon, Jorsling, Graham, Cyrus and Guerra were also part of the roster on that day.
T&T Squad in Antigua: Kerlon Ferguson, Kevon Neaves, Bevon Bass, Aubrey David, Marvin Phillip (T&TEC), Elton John, Jamal Jack, Willis Plaza (Jabloteh), Kevon Carter, Richard Roy, Rodell Elock (Defence Force), Keon Boucher (St Clair Coaching School), Clyde Leon (W Connection), Seon Power (DirecTV North East Stars), Daneil Cyrus (unattached), Ataullah Guerra, Devorn Jorsling, Kevin Graham (Caledonia AIA).