Trinidad and Tobago head coach Francisco Maturana says he will be hoping that Panama presents the National Senior Team outfit with the strongest possible test when both teams clash in a warm up international at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium from 7pm on Wednesday.
Panama are in good form at the moment, after picking up their first UNCAF (Central American) Nations Cup title, beating giants and three-time FIFA World Cup™ participants Costa Rica in the final, and duly blasted 33 places up in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking to 51 ahead of T&T (74th).Wins over much-fancied Guatemala and hosts Honduras in the semi-final were enough to see the Canaleros - coached by English-born former youth coach Gary Stempel - reach the final. The unheralded Panamanians then claimed a shootout victory against Costa Rica to be crowned champions of a tournament that many pundits expected to be bossed by Honduras and six-time winners Costa Rica .
Maturana conducted a final training session at the Larry Gomes Stadium on Tuesday morning and will name his starting eleven on match day to face Panama which is preparing for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“This is a friendly but I think we all know how important matches like these are in relation to our preparation for World Cup qualifiers. Nothing is taken for granted and what we do in practice and in match like this (against Panama ) is a way for us to rehearse for the important one which is March 28,” Maturana told TTFF Media.
“The players are focused because we have been through this before. Everybody knows the responsibilities and the various functions. It is important that everyone understands that nothing comes easy so if we have problems with suspension of players then we look to get a solution and that is what we are always working on. The match tomorrow will give us a good indication how the preparation is going and how it shall continue for March 28,” Maturana added.
Striker Cornell Glen, who was in prolific form during the tour of Argentina , expects the current T&T team to pull out all the stops for the upcoming matches.
“The two important games are against USA and Honduras but tomorrow against Panama we will be looking to pull off a strong performance and hopefully set up a good result. It is always good to get a confidence booster but more importantly we need to get it together as a team and pull out all the stops for the matches. We cannot take anything for granted at this stage,” Glen said.
“Fitness wise this game against Panama will come in handy. The guys are looking sharp because we are in preseason so there is a lot of fitness work involved.
“We were disappointed with the result against El Salvador so obviously everyone wants to make up for that. I am feeling a lot fitter than I was a month ago so hopefully I can get more playing time and make a good enough contribution to the overall showing,” Glen added.
The suspension of Dwight Yorke has been a topic of discussion both among the staff and playing personnel. Midfielder Densill Theobald is optimistic that the available players can rise to the call in the captain’s absence.
“Dwight is a critical member of the team and even when he’s not available to play I think he will still have an important role to play. We as teammates have his back right through and he gives us that kind of inspiration to make things happen as well. His absence is a blow but at the same time I think we have players here who can step up their game and make the kind of contribution that can see us come out victorious. It’s not going to be easy by any mean but we are all prepared to dig deep and make it happen right for the country,” Theobald added.
T&T Under 20 trio Leston Paul, Robert Primus and Sean De Silva have been part of the training and are in the squad which checked into camp at the Holiday Inn Express on Tuesday. The squad also includes Marvin Phillip, Anthony Wolfe, Makan Hislop, Keyeno Thomas, Andrei Pacheco, Robert Primus, Akeil Guevara, Lester Peltier, Clyde Leon, Trent Noel, Kevaughn Connell, Russell Latapy, Errol McFarlane, Atulla Guerra and Aklie Edwards.
For Wednesday’s match TTFF will allow free entry to fans 18 years and younger to the uncovered stands of the Manny Ramjohn Stadium on Wednesday as a form of appreciation for the support given to the National Under 20 team during its successful qualification bid for Egypt 2009. General admission for covered stands is $100 and $50 for uncovered. For the March 28 World Cup qualifier against Honduras there are ongoing selling of tickets via www.ttffonline.com and 800 - FANS