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Radanfah Abu Bakr #6 of Trinidad & Tobago and Rogelio Funes Mori #11 of Mexico head the ball during the match of CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A between Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago at AT&T Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

T&T defender Radanfah Abu Bakr stated that the T&T Soca Warriors are disappointed to be out of the Concacaf Gold Cup after the group stage but should hold their heads high.

The T&T senior men's football team with interim head coach Angus Eve in charge drew goalless with reigning champion Mexico in their Pool A opener of the Gold Cup before losing 2-0 to El Salvador followed by a 1-1 draw with Guatemala, to end with two points and third spot in their group thus failing to advance to the quarterfinals.

This after the national team won their Preliminary Round qualifiers, first against Montserrat 6-1 followed by an 8-7 sudden-death penalty-kicks triumph over French Guiana after a 1-1 full-time draw to seal a spot in the group stages.

However, before their Gold Cup campaign, the T&T team was in turmoil having just been booted from the Concacaf Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA Qatar World Cup after ending in the second spot to St Kitts and Nevis in a five-team round-robin pool from which only the winner advance to the Concacaf Second Round of qualification.

During the qualifiers, T&T defeated Guyana 3-0 but then drew 1-1 with Puerto Rico, 0-0 with minnows Bahamas, before blanking already qualified St Kitts and Nevis 2-0 to end in the second spot with seven points, two behind the group winner.

Following the failed World Cup campaign, then coach, Englishman Terry Fenwick was axed and replaced on an interim basis by Eve, who was given a contract until August 31 ahead of the Fifa-installed Normalisation Committee's appointment of a permanent replacement for Fenwick.

Based on the team's displays during the Gold Cup, Eve should no doubt be among the candidates for the vacant position and speaking on his return home on Wednesday night from the  Gold Cup where he played a key role in T&T's opening goalless draw with Mexico, 34-year-old Abu Bakr who is attached to PS Tira in Indonesia said, "Obviously we are a little bit disappointed not to still be in the competition, but we could be pleased with what we have done out there.

"It's just about now building and learning from some of the errors and picking up some momentum now."

Reflecting on the team's involvement in the competition, Abu Bakr who has two goals in 38 senior team appearances said he thought the highlight of the campaign has to be the performances of everyone.

"We used our full squad and everybody contributed and it's hard to pinpoint any one person so it's just the super team effort and the pride that we played with that was the highlight for me."

Looking forward, former Queen's Royal College stalwart Abu Bkar who has played locally for Joe Public and Morvant Caledonia United said, "We have to get back playing football, especially the local guys. We have to stay fit and we have to build on the performances and all the experiences that we have had in the last few weeks and we have to be stronger.

"We played for ourselves, for each other, for our teammates, families of course, and the fans and everybody in T&T who suffered through this pandemic and suffered through a low point in our football. This is for them and of course, some of our injured brothers who sort of fell along the way in this journey, so Khaleem (Hyland) and Jones (Joevin) and all the boys who fought so hard with us, this is dedicated to them as well."

Another tireless performer for T&T during the competition was Canada-based striker and former Fatima College student, 27-year-old Ryan Telfer said the end of the campaign is a bittersweet moment.

Telfer, who has five goals in 15 senior teams appearances and featured in all the team's matches, added, "Knowing where we were as T&T football a couple of months ago, being knocked out of the World Cup qualifying campaign and then being able to turn things around quickly with a new coaching staff and maybe some new players and just being able to go through that pre-qualifying campaign to qualify for the Gold Cup, was huge for us.

"It was a big step for us and then obviously the results against Mexico is something that the whole on T&T and maybe Mexico was ultimately surprised about but it was a proud moment for all the guys here.

"Having that results against El Salvador and losing that game that hurt us a lot because of what we did in that game before against Mexico, and then hopefully trying to get something out of the Guatemala game, which we ultimately ended up tying the game that we believed that we should have won, but all-in-all it's a good note from where we were before and a huge step in what's to come in T&T football."

Concerning the rest of the year, Telfer said based on what has happened the team has to take it one step at a time.

He said, “Through all the turmoils the federation and the players have been through, this is a huge step for us and we just have to take it one game at a time when it comes, and if it comes in the form of an international friendly or when Nations League starts back up."

SOURCE: T&T Guardian