Trinidad and Tobago’s “Soca Warriors” for the third time in the qualifying campaign for South Africa find themselves going into an encounter where anything other than a victory could spell the end of their chance of making it to a successive World Cup Finals.
Given El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago's precarious position as the bottom two sides of the six-team final phase of North, Central America and Caribbean qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, their meeting at the Hasely Crawford Stadium from 7:30pm is vital for both teams' hopes.
Back in June 2008, T&T, under Francisco Maturana needed to win by two clear goals over Bermuda to avoid an early exit and then defeats away to Guatemala and home to the United States in October 2008 would have left T&T struggling at the bottom of the table. A scoreless draw with the Guatemalans and a 2-1 win over the US led T&T to the final round and today Russell Latapy will be hoping his troops can pull off another life saving performance.
A win will put T&T even with their opponents on five points and heading to Honduras next month with the feeling that a win then can push them ahead of current third place holders Honduras (seven points) once they lose to Costa Rica today (Wednesday).
“We know what we have to do and we will go ahead in the best possible way in trying to achieve the result in this game,” Latapy said.
Midfielder Chris Birchall is hoping to play a pivotal role on the pitch .
“We are all fit from our preseasons and the guys who are into their seasons are all fit and ready for the game. We are looking forward to going out there and getting a result,” Birchall told TTFF Media.
“We know we must win the game and that’s all we’re thinking about at the moment. They will be coming out in the first twenty minutes lively and they will be trying to passing it around. They’re a good team but we were able to get on top of them in the early stages in El Salvador but in the last ten minutes things didn’t go too well. This time we’re at home and we know what we have to do. We could go all out in attack and try to get the goals but we’ve got to also make sure not to concede,” he added.
The English-born player mentioned that he didn’t think the absence of Bobby Zamora and Jlloyd Samuel is a setback to the team’s chances on Wednesday.
“I don’t think it’ too much because we haven’t played with them. We know obviously that they play their football in England and I probably know a bit more about them. They are good players and they would have been good additions to the team but they haven’t been with us before and we have some great players in our team as well so we’ve just got to push on with what we have got and try our best to get the victory.”
“We have a good vibes and the guys are doing what the coach is asking of us. A victory will close the gap with USA and Costa Rica and we think we can move into the top three if we get the right results. I think once we can defend well and not concede then we can get the win because our front men will get the chances to put away,” added Joe Public midfielder Trent Noel.
Aside from the 2-2 draw in February,there have been four meetings between the two sides in the last two years, which ended with two wins for T&T, one for Los Cuscatlecos and one draw. Trinidad and Tobago also have the edge overall, boasting four wins to La Selecta's three with a further three matches finishing level. T&T won 2-1 in the 1989 World Cup qualifier in Port of Spain while both teams played to a 0-0 draw in El Salvador that same year in the return leg.
"It's a vital game for our (South Africa 2010) hopes," said Salvadoran defender Marvin Gonzalez. "We need focus and hard work and we have to go for all three points. If we end up drawing then we'd take that too, but we're aiming for the win."
El Salvador go into the game on the back of a 2-1 friendly loss against Colombia, which for coach Carlos De los Cobos was an encouraging result. "We took a lot of positives from it. Colombia really had us on the ropes and that'll help us iron out any mistakes we made. Of course, our goal is to win the game against Trinidad, and what really matters is the result," said the Mexican-born coach.
American Terry Vaughn is the referee for the encounter with Thomas Supple and Corey Rockell also from the USA , to serve as his assistants.