T&T Soca Warriors coach Angus Eve has stated his team will be prepared to face any opponent when the draw for the preliminary qualification matches for the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup takes place on Friday.
The T&T coach left here yesterday for the live draw, scheduled to take place at the SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California, USA. The draw will start at noon PT/local time (3:00 pm TT Time) and will be hosted by TUDN sportscaster Valeria Marin, Fox Sports Lead Soccer Analyst and US Men’s National Team legend Alexi Lalas and ESPN play-by-play commentator Fernando Palomo.
Concacaf president and FIFA vice president, Victor Montagliani, will participate in the event, alongside the teams’ head coaches and important guests.
The 17th edition of the Gold Cup is scheduled to take place between June 16 - July 16, 2023, with the Final at SoFi Stadium, on Sunday, July 16, which will crown Concacaf’s best men’s national team and will conclude two months of elite football in the region that also include the 2023 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Final and 2022/23 Concacaf Nations League Finals.
However, before the Soca Warriors can step foot on the Concacaf Gold Cup group stage they will have to get through two rounds of preliminary qualification matches after failing to qualify directly from their four-team Concacaf Nations League B Group C round-robin home-and-away series.
Speaking before his departed on Thursday, Eve said we don't know who we are going to be facing but our preparation will resume in earnest once the draw has been confirmed.
"The good thing about the draw is we do have some idea and intimate knowledge of what we can expect from some of the teams left as possible opponents, after facing off with Guyana, and St Lucia in recent times, who are coached by T&T nationals Stern John, and Jamaal Shabazz respectively, but at the same time, their team personnel are likely to have changed as well.
'As for the other nations that we can face, we also have videos to go over and analyze and do our tactical planning if we are drawn against them.
The T&T coach while confident in his team's chances of advancing to the Gold Cup noted that the local squad was in a transitional stage and while he understands the disappointment felt by many in the team not qualifying directly to the Gold Cup, he did feel that recent positive results may have heightened expectations.
"We have a good core of players, but a lot of the guys have just recently resumed activities locally as well. We also have a few players like Alvin Jones and Joevin Jones, who were named in the Team of the Week" not being attached to clubs, so it's a work in progress, but at the same time we have also seen lower-ranked countries pull the upset over so-call 'big nations', so we will be taking that into account well and not take these teams lightly."
Last month, Eve's men entered their final League B Group C match against table leaders Nicaragua at the Dwight Yorke Stadium, Bacolet, Tobago needing a win to secure the top spot in the group, promotion to League A of the Concacaf Nations League, and automatic qualification to the Gold Cup.
However, Eve’s men could only muster a 1-1 draw to end with 13 points, one behind Nicaragua to miss out on being among the 12 automatic qualifiers. for the 2023 Gold Cup, joining Asian Champions and guest nation, Qatar along with League A group winners: Canada, Mexico, Panama, and the USA, the four League A runners-up Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Jamaica along with the League B group winning quartet of Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, and Nicaragua.
The 12 other teams to qualify for the Gold Cup preliminary qualifiers were League A third-place finishers, Curaçao, Grenada, Martinique, and Suriname along with League B second-place finishers French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guyana, and T&T and League C group winners Puerto Rico, St Kitts/Nevis, St Lucia, and Sint Maarten.
And last month, in the 2023 Gold Cup preliminary draw which was carried out using a single-blind system and one pot and based on the Concacaf rankings as of March 31, 2023, the teams participating in the prelims were seeded into a Round One matchup or placed in Pot One, as follows Round One matchups (six highest-ranked teams): T&T (#1), Martinique (#2), Curaçao (#3), French Guiana (#4), Suriname (#5), and Guyana (#6), and Friday, they will be drawn against one of the teams from Pot One (Six lowest ranked teams) in Guadeloupe, St Kitts/Nevis, St Lucia, Grenada, Puerto Rico, and Sint Maarten for the first round of the preliminary round playoffs.
From the first round of the preliminary round of playoffs, the winners will then advance to the second round where it was determined that the winners of T&T's match will face the winner of the Guyana match (#1 vs #6) for a spot in the Gold Cup main draw while #2 meets #5, and #3 comes up against #6 to for the other two spots in the Gold Cup Group Stage draw which will be carried out using a double-blind system, involving eight pots.
Two years ago, with Eve as the interim coach for just under a month after the sacking of Englishman Terry Fenwick following the Soca Warriors' disastrous Qatar World Cup Concacaf qualifying campaign, and failing to get past the first round, T&T also had to go through a preliminary stage to get to the Gold Cup.
Back then, T&T hammered Montserrat 6-1 before getting the better of French Guiana 8-7 in sudden-death penalty-kicks after a 1-1 draw to reach the main draw where they drew goalless with Mexico, went under to El Salvador 2-0 and drew 1-1 with Guatemala in Group C.
In the history of the tournament, T&T has qualified for the Gold Cup main draw 11 out of 16 times with its best showing coming in 2000 under coach Bertille St Clair when they were edged out by Canada 1-0 in their semifinal while they topped their main draw group comprising Mexico, Cuba, and Guatemala in 2015 under Stephen Hart before losing 6-5 on penalty-kicks to Panama in the quarterfinals after a 1-1 draw.
T&T was also beaten 1-0 by Mexico in the quarterfinals in 2013, the only other time they have managed to qualify out of their round-robin pool.