WITH no additional international friendlies carded for Trinidad and Tobago’s men’s football team ahead of the Concacaf Nations League in June, head coach Angus Eve will use the next two months to carefully observe and assess both local and foreign-based players before his final team selection.
Eve used the recently concluded Courts Caribbean Classic tri-nation tourney, which was held during FIFA’s international window, to bring in some of T&T’s foreign-based talents so he could get a final, first-hand look at their progress before they returned to their respective clubs.
From now until the Nations League kicks off, Eve will have to monitor these overseas players virtually and through video footage from games, to see who will make the final 23-man team. In this regard, communication, he said, is essential.
Thankfully, however, T&T’s roll-back on its covid19 restrictions has allowed for domestic leagues to resume which, according to Eve, will aid in expanding the selection pool.
On Monday, T&T were drawn into Group C in League B of the Concacaf Nations League qualifiers alongside Nicaragua, Bahamas and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Also in League B are Cuba, Guadeloupe, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados (Group A); Saint Lucia, Dominica, Anguilla (Group B) and Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands (Group D).
League B group winners (four teams) will guarantee slots in the 17th edition of the Gold Cup in 2023.
With no official friendlies on the team’s short-term itinerary, Eve said he will have to use players’ performances during club competition over the next eight weeks as his measuring stick for T&T’s Nations League team selection.
At Monday’s press briefing on the draw, Eve said, “We would just be observing the players (ahead of the tournament). The players are all in-season. Up to yesterday (Monday) I had conversations with Daniel Phillip (England-based), Sheldon Bateau (Turkey-based) and a number of guys who didn’t come to the camp.
“The main thing we can do is communicate with the players and watch their progress, see the games they are playing and making sure they are fit with the clubs. The good thing is all the players are now playing and we have to monitor them.
“The possibility of us trying to get a locally-based team to play one match is real. But other than that, there is no FIFA international window from now until the competition.”
Eve added that the resumption of local leagues such as the Ascension Tournament and the Tiger Tanks U20 Invitational also serves as a good test to evaluate players. He has already attended a couple of games and follows the progress of other players via television or online.
He expressed pleasure this time around, owing to a resumption of local leagues, that T&T’s local footballers would have a better chance to be match-fit and ready for national team selection.
“The locally-based players are playing in a league and we can watch them. This time there is local football going on so they can get match-fit also. There is also the U-20 (tournament) going on so we have released the U-20 players to their clubs so they can also get match practice.
“If they can go back to their clubs and get more match fitness, it will be easier for us to bring them in as a group to try to gel them in the representative positions they would play.
“These tournaments (Ascension/U-20) give the locally-based players to play and put themselves up for selection. We’re viewing the foreign-based players. We had a lot of locally-based players, playing in the last mini-series we had with Courts,” he added.
Eve said T&T has a “rich history” competing against the Bahamas and St Vincent and the Grenadines and drew reference to the former knocking T&T out of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers last year.
He also reflected on T&T’s meeting with St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2016, in which Levi Garcia made his debut for the senior national team, and scored two crucial second-half goals to give T&T a narrow 3-2 win over their Caribbean rivals.
“We’re not taking anything for granted. The group that we’re drawn in has a rich history against T&T. Bahamas, knocked us out of the last World Cup (qualifying campaign) recently so they’re a very difficult outfit.
“St Vincent, I remember in 2006, I had to come off the bench (as a player), me and Hector Sam to win that game against them.
“And under Stephen Hart, Levi (Garcia) was 17 when he made his debut and had to score two for us to win that game.
“Nicaragua has been developing their football and all these teams have players who have international calibre outside. It’s a difficult group but we’ll do our best to be prepared for it,” he added.
He closed, “Our goal is preparation for the 2026 World Cup. This is another phase in that preparation. The Nations League is one of the avenues we have to go through so that we can qualify for other tournaments in the region and start back to re-establish ourselves in the region. We need to do this before we go and tussle with the big boys. We are at a rebuilding stage and this is another stepping stone in that cog.”
Concacaf Nations League Groups
Group A: Mexico, Jamaica, Suriname
Group B: Costa Rica, Panama, Martinique
Group C: Canada, Honduras, Curaçao
Group D: United States, El Salvador, Grenada
Group A: Cuba, Guadeloupe, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados
Group B: Haiti, Bermuda, Guyana, Montserrat
Group C: T&T, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Bahamas
Group D: Guatemala, French Guiana, Dominican Republic, Belize
Group A: Bonaire, Turks and Caicos Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, St Maarten
Group B: Saint Kitts and Nevis, Aruba, Saint Martin
Group C: Saint Lucia, Dominica, Anguilla
Group D: Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands
WATCH Eve Reacts to 2022/23 Concacaf Nations League Matchups