It will be a difficult but much-needed challenge for this country's senior national footballers against Bolivia on Friday's at the Estadio Olimpico Patrio in Sucre.
The team leaves on Tuesday with the odds stacked against them, according to coach Angus Eve, following a training session at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Balmain, Couva yesterday, facing the scare of high altitude conditions, a full-strength Bolivian team as well as an inexperienced T&T outfit.
However, with no football for his players during the last three FIFA windows last year, coupled with no CFU or Caribbean Cup tournaments as it was in the past, the match is critical for not only the Nations League later this year but also the development of the sport which is severely lacking.
"Having not had any matches in the last three FIFA-match windows of last year, we thought it important that we try to play in every window in this year. We couldn't ask for better opposition. It may not be so ideal for us because we still can't have competitive football playing in Trinidad and mainly this team is a locally-based team that is going abroad, but this will be a very good experience for them to go into a game such as this.
We need a core-based team that will be training here, to give the guys that bit of experience. They need to play matches to gain experience. It's all well and good to have training but we don't have a local league playing at present.
If you look at the squad you will see a lot of unattached players, so we need to fill that void by getting matches for them to play to prepare them going into the Nations League," Eve explained.
He added: "Because we haven't played for a while, it's just general for us, but also because of the opposition and the atmosphere they will be playing in, that in itself will be a challenge for the guys so to have them play in that type of environment, will be an invaluable experience so that when we have to go to places like Mexico, we will be more prepared for that."
For many years T&T senior teams have played World Cup qualifiers and other matches in front of large crowds in high altitude conditions in Mexico. And only recently at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States last year, the men in red, white and black were verbally abused and criticised by crowds of Mexican supporters, when they held the Mexican team to a goalless draw in Arlington.
Friday's match which was initially carded for Santa Cruz in Bolivia was moved to Sucre, which is some 9,000 feet above sea level. The Bolivians will use the match as preparation for their World Cup against Venezuela and Chile soon after.
Eve said: "Bolivia have all their players. They've picked all their players because 90 percent of the team play in Bolivia and the few players that play in Brazil, play with Santos and Cruzeiro, their captain. One player plays for the same team as Joevin Jones and they are all back for this game because they have World Cup qualifying six days after so their full team is here for this game, so it will be a major test for our guys."
Watch Angus speaks on Eve of departure for Bolivia
(Trinidad and Tobago squad to face Bolivia)
Goalkeepers: Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Marvin Phillip (Unattached);
Defenders: Alvin Jones, Jamal Jack, Radanfah Abu Bakr (all unattached), Stephon Marcano (CSU Bakersfield Athletics—USA), Jesse Williams, Mekeil Williams (both Pittsburgh Riverhounds—USA), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery—USA), Justin Garcia (Defence Force);
Midfielders: Michel Poon-Angeron, Keston George (both unattached), Noah Powder, Neveal Hackshaw (both Indy Eleven—USA), Matthew Woo Ling (Miami United FC—USA), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force), Molik Khan (Club Sando FC),
Attackers: John-Paul Rochford, Ryan Telfer (both unattached), Ajani Fortune (Atlanta United II—USA), Reon Moore (Defence Force).
Newcomer Stephon Marcano joins Soca Warriors for Bolivia friendly
By Joel Bailey (T&T Newsday).
STEPHON MARCANO is the only new face included in the Trinidad and Tobago men’s football team, who will travel to Bolivia on Tuesday for Friday’s friendly international match against the hosts in Sucre.
The 22-year-old Marcano can play both as a right-back and as a right-sided midfielder. The former Fatima College student is currently a student at California State University.
Another uncapped player in the squad is teenaged midfielder Molik Khan, who was a reserve member of T&T team at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup in the United States.
The team, selected by coach Angus Eve on Monday, features the experienced goalkeepers Marvin Phillip and Adrian Foncette, as well as central defender Radanfah Abu Bakr, wing-backs Mekeil Williams and Alvin Jones.
Eve, who spoke to the media during a training session at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on Monday morning, mentioned the inactivity of the team since the Gold Cup last July, but hopes the players can give a good account of themselves against a Bolivia squad who are still involved in 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
“Having not had any matches in the last three windows of last year, we thought it very important that we try to play in every window in this year, and you couldn’t ask for a better opposition,” he said. “It may not be so ideal for us because we still don’t have competitive football playing in Trinidad and, mainly, this team is a locally-based team, but this will be good experience (from) a game like this.”
The former T&T midfielder and captain mentioned, “They need to play matches to gain experience. It’s all well and good with our training, but we don’t have a league playing at present. If you look at the squad, you’ll see a lot of unattached players, so the national team needs to fill that void by getting matches for them to play to prepare us going into the Nations League.”
Concerning the Bolivia squad, Eve said, “They have picked all their players, 90 per cent of the team plays in Bolivia. The few players that (are based) in Brazil play with Santos and Cruziero. They all are back for this because they have World Cup qualifying (action) about six days after.
“It will be a major test for our guys. The game will be played in Sucre, which is 9,000 feet above sea level, so that will add challenges to our guys, but we need to play in these adverse circumstances.”
Asked how important is it for sport to resume in T&T, Eve replied, “If you can have a boat ride that holds 200 (people) then this Stadium holds 25,000, you can have 500 and call it a safe zone.”