Trinidad and Tobago men’s football team coach Angus Eve says qualifying for the 2024 CONMEBOL Copa America tournament has the potential to change the football landscape in the country.
On Thursday and Monday, T&T will lock horns with the US in a home-and-away quarter-final tie in the 2023/24 Concacaf Nations League (CNL) A cycle. The US, defending champions in the Nations League, will host the first leg from 10 pm TT timeat the Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas. T&T will host the return leg at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo on Monday night.
At stake for the two teams in the CNL quarter-final is a spot in the CNL semi-final and also an automatic spot in next year’s expanded Copa tournament, which will feature six Concacaf teams. Even with a loss in the quarter-final, either T&T or the US can still advance to Copa 2024 via a single-match, direct elimination play-off against one of the other losing quarter-finalists in March next year.
“We are in (Concacaf Nations League) A and we have maintained our position in the (tournament) so anything we get now – we are going to play with our hearts – will be a bonus for us,” Eve told T&T Football Association (TTFA) media during his team’s first session in Austin on Tuesday.
“The opportunity to play in the Copa America is a massive bonus for us so we are not going to take these games lightly at all. We want to go and put our best foot forward.”
Eve says T&T’s upcoming CNL matches present the perfect opportunity for the country’s football growth and development.
“I don’t think a lot of people back home understand the importance of these games fully and what they mean for us. If we can get by these games and qualify for the Copa America, it will bring so much to football for our country.
“It is a step forward towards where we want to be and where the country wants to be competing at the highest level all the time in Concacaf and world football.”
In the most recent meeting between the teams, the US stormed to a thumping 6-0 triumph in a group stage match at the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup in July.
Eve says the Soca Warriors are on a mission to right the wrongs from the Gold Cup.
“We are still feeling the pain from the 6-0 drubbing we got from the US in the Gold Cup. We want to correct that also. The boys are really motivated for that not to happen to us again. I was reading something today and the stats were overwhelmingly against us in the series against America. As I said before, we are motivated and we are going to go out there and work very hard.”
With T&T playing in the CNL knockout stages for the first time, Eve acknowledged the magnitude of the task ahead.
“These are uncharted waters for us. Also, I think we are playing the tenth ranked team in the world and we are way down the pecking order. We are in a rebuilding stage as I have said before and the rebuilding is going a lot faster than expected.”
The US are Concacaf’s highest-ranked team on the Fifa rankings at 11th.The 12th-ranked Mexico are the next best Concacaf team. T&T are the 11th best team in Concacaf and are ranked 99th by Fifa.
“We have pride and we will represent our country in the right way. We know it is a mammoth task but we really want to go out and compete with the US in this series.”
Eve’s full complement of 23 players were involved in Tuesday’s session, with the manager saying everyone is in good spirits. Eve said the conditions in Austin were “nippy,” but he said they would not be unbearable to play in.
On Thursday night, the Warriors, who finished second in their CNL group behind Panama, will test their mettle and progress against Concacaf’s best team and the reigning CNL champions.
The Italian Serie A duo of Christian Pulisic and Timothy Weah have both been ruled out of the quarter-final tie for the US with hamstring injuries.
SOURCE: T&T Newsday