Thu, Oct

Trinidad and Tobago will complete an amazing comeback if they beat Bahrain in their two-legged playoff and reach the World Cup finals for the first time in their history this month.

Goalkeeper Shaka Hislop believes reaching Germany 2006 would be one of the most significant achievements in the Caribbean country's history.

We've been close to the World Cup before but never been there and it would be a big boost not just for Trinidad and Tobago but for the whole Caribbean region," he told Reuters.

"We feel we've got the players and the ability to put our country on the map. I wouldn't like to guess what it would be like over there if we make it.

"I'm sure there will be street parties. It would be a special time in our history and I'm sure the people would make it a time to remember."

That they are even playing Bahrain represents a huge achievement in itself, as with more than half the CONCACAF final qualifying group completed, Trinidad and Tobago had looked down and out.

They won just one of their first six matches under former coach Bertille St Clair, who was replaced after a 5-1 defeat to Guatemala last March.

In came the experienced 63-year-old Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker who guided them to three wins out of their last four qualifiers which allowed them to recover to finish fourth in the six-team group and qualify for the playoffs against Bahrain, winners of the Asian playoff against Uzbekistan.

Now Hislop, the 36-year-old West Ham United goalkeeper, cannot wait for Saturday's first leg against Bahrain in Port of Spain.


With a population of just over one million, Trinidad would be the smallest country at the tournament and the first Caribbean country to qualify since Jamaica in 1998.

Hislop will undergo medical checks this week after being substituted in West Ham's 1-0 Premier League win over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday following a head injury, but it would take a brave doctor to prevent him from playing in what he describes as "the biggest game of my career".

Captained by former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke, now with Sydney United, Trinidad also feature players from England's lower leagues such as Stern John of Derby County, who has scored 12 goals in the qualifiers, and Paul Birchall of Port Vale.

Hislop says victory over Bahrain would help his country to become a breeding ground for new talent by bringing a new generation of young players to the world's attention.

He said: "It's a personal dream of mine to play in the World Cup with Trinidad and I know this campaign is my last chance to make it.

"But as far as the larger picture goes it's a fantastic opportunity to make a name for ourselves and bring the spotlight on to our local football.

"There are so many kids in Trinidad with dreams of playing professionally, and we're always on the look-out for the next Dwight Yorke.

"I have family and friends there myself, and my wife is Trinidadian. It's where I call home and it always will be. I can guess what the atmosphere is like there now.

"I was a kid growing up there and I know what it means to the youngsters over there. It's a dream to see us at the World Cup. We're all hoping we can do it."


The exploits of the Soca Warriors have certainly gripped the nation so far. Trinidad confirmed their play-off place only after recovering from a goal down and a missed penalty against Mexico to win 2-1 in their final qualifier.

Hislop says their success is down to Beenhakker, once manager of Real Madrid, Ajax Amsterdam and the Netherlands, and insists they will never have a better opportunity to reach their first finals.

He said: "We've got a fantastic chance. A lot of hard work has gone into getting us where we are, and we're on our best run of form of the whole campaign. It's a good time for us.

"Leo takes a lot of credit for that. He made the changes that were necessary and he's got the team playing at their best.

"We don't know a lot about our opponents but I expect to find out a whole lot more about them from him. None of us will go into the game unprepared.

"The squad as a whole was stronger four years ago, but this team is better. We've really come together and we play as a team now despite on paper not being as strong as we were then individually. Everybody would be overjoyed and exuberant if we make it. It would be amazing."