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Ryan Telfer (C) of Trinidad and Tobago celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal during the CONCACAF Nations League group A football match between El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago, at the Jorge "Magico" Gonzalez Stadium in San Salvador, on September 10, 2023. (Photo by Marvin RECINOS / AFP)

TRINIDAD and Tobago men's football coach Angus Eve says the Soca Warriors are heading in the "right direction" after climbing from 102nd to 98th in the latest Fifa rankings which were released on Thursday.

T&T won the first two games of their 2023/24 Concacaf Nations League (CNL) A campaign versus Curacao and El Salvador earlier this month, and Eve says it's just a reward for his team's efforts over the last two years.

"It's a step in the right direction. We started this project in 2021 and we're seeing the fruits of our labour now," said Eve, whose contract as head coach was extended to March 2024 by the Fifa-appointed T&T Football Association (TTFA) normalisation committee. "It's been tiny steps but it has been a difficult road. The process is ongoing and it's a rebuilding process."

Prior to these latest rankings, TT were last ranked among Fifa's top 100 teams in December 2021. The T&T coach is looking towards a brighter future for his team as he includes a younger group of players in the mix.

"The work is still in progress and it's good to see our country back in the top 100," Eve told Newsday. The guys have done tremendously well. We revamped the team from the (2023 Concacaf) Gold Cup. We made several changes. We made changes in terms of the methodology of where we were at. We focused on what we wanted to do, which was to introduce younger players into the team."

T&T are currently ranked fourth among Caribbean Football Union (CFU) nations, with Jamaica (56th), Haiti (87th) and Curacao (90th) leading the regional charge. With two CNL group matches still to come against Guatemala (October 13) and Curacao (October 17), T&T are on the cusp of qualifying for the quarter-final stage of the competition.

"I've been talking to the players and they are in good spirits. This augurs well going into the other stages of the (tournament). It's a good platform for us to build from for the Nations League because I don't think anybody expected us to be here."

Eve says he, his staff and his players are all learning every day and they are taking the progress in stride.

"It's a game at a time at the moment. All the teams we play would have different dynamics. All the teams have different strengths and things they would come at us with. We have to prepare and know what we want to do and do what we want to do."

With those two key CNL fixtures on the horizon next month, Eve was delighted to see the return of his ace forward Levi Garcia. The 25-year-old Garcia returned from a month-long injury layoff on Thursday, as he started in AEK Athens' 3-2 win away to Premier League club Brighton and Hove Albion in the Europa League.

"(Levi) has a lot more games to play before (those CNL games) and many things can happen before that – like it happened the last time. I called him and congratulated him on his performance (Thursday) because I thought he was brilliant for someone who was out for that length of time.

"I see nothing but bigger things for him in the future. He's very motivated to do well for his club and his country. I expect that he will continue in that vein and it was very good to see him for the number of minutes he played. Once he's available he wants to be a part of the squad."

SOURCE: T&T Newsday