Big mountain to climb for little Soca Warriors.
Trinidad and Tobago's national senior football team will take on Honduras in an all important World Cup Qualifier at the Olympic Stadium in San Pedro Sula, Honduras today from 7pm (9pm TT-Time).
Coached by veteran midfielder Russell Latapy, the Soca Warriors will have all to play for if they are to keep their World Cup dreams alive.
Trinidad and Tobago has played Honduras six times in World Cup Qualifying action, losing twice with three draws and just one victory. The odds are definitely stacked against Latapy's men as they look to take on one of CONCACAF's deadliest teams in the 2009 Hexagonal series at the San Pedro Sula Olympia Stadium, a place where the host has an almost 100% unbeaten record.
Though inconsistent- when up for the challenge Honduras can surely do damage. Coming off a 4-0 victory over CONCACAF leaders Costa Rica and wins against El Salvador and Mexico respectively, Honduras will be flying with confidence and will throw everything into attack come Saturday as they look to seal a 2010 World Cup Berth. Their next game which is 4-days away will be none other than Mexico in Mexico City, so the road for The Los Catrachos could be a rocky one should they fail to beat the Soca Warriors.
Packed with pace, power and determined to bury the ghost of 2001, the Hondurans are gunning for revenge from the last time both teams met in Honduras, October 2001. The venue was; Estadío Olímpico Metropolitano - Stern John netted a 61st minute item as the 10-men of Trinidad and Tobago walked away victorious. The result was costly for Honduras as they got eliminated from qualifying for the 2002 World Cup finals.
Both teams played to a 1-1 draw back in March 2009 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. Honduras controlled the midfield for most parts until "The Magician" himself came on to loosen things up for the Soca Warriors.
That would be Russell Latapy's last game before picking up the mantle for T&T and the 39-year old made an instant impact when introduced in the 67th minute for the below par Keon Daniel.
Veteran striker Carlos Pavon scored a 50th minute header for Honduras when T&T keeper Jan Michael Williams' poor attempt to punch away a corner-kick gave the pacy striker a free header into the T&T's goal, 1-0 Honduras.
T&T trailed until the 88th minute and managed to get on the scoreboard when substitute Khaleem Hyland beat the offside trap to tap the ball into the Honduran net after a fumble by their keeper Noel Valladares who thought he had his goal covered.
From T&T's last Honduran encounter, one can expect some changes for today's game. Jan-Michael Williams is not expected to be in goal. Densill Theobald, Keon Daniel and Jason Scotland starting positions are not guaranteed. Captain Dennis Lawrence, makeshift rightback Anthony Wolfe, the injured Stern John, goal hero Khaleem Hyland and Aklie Edwards were not summoned for the crucial qualifier.
Finally, lets not forget deputy Francisco Maturana isn't here anymore or more-so, he might just be in Honduras as he was during T&T's last game against El Salvador in Trinidad, but this time Mr Maturana will be cheering from the stands alongside the "know it all" Alvin Corneal, both FIFA technical committee members. Hopefully he will still be rooting for the men in red, white and black.
For Honduras it will be more or less the same, Julio De Leon and Amado Guevara will be pulling the strings in midfield as they did in Port of Spain. The experienced Noel Valladares will stand between the uprights, Hendry Thomas will stabilize their midfield, the dangerous David Sauzo will replace the suspended Carlos Costly and lets not forget the evergreen Carlos Pavon.
At the back the Hondurans are suspect and it definitely looks to be their weakest part of their team. Maynor Figueroa and Erick Norales will anchor their central defence while Mauricio Sabillón and Emilio Izaguirre will hold the wingbacks.
But Honduras isn't short of players as Víctor Bernárdez, Danilo Turcios, Ramón Núñez and Italian based Edgar Álvarez are all capable of ruffling a few feathers.
Who could forget the dangers of both Pavon and Sauzo back in June 2001 when they literally walked through the T&T defence like standing cones on a training pitch at the Hasley Crawford Stadium. Center backs Marvin Andrews and Dennis Lawrence were no match for the speedy strikers as they took their team to an impressive 4-2 victory. The strikers were so fast they would have made track star Hasley Crawford himself blush.
Amado up for the game
It was learnt that Honduran captain Amado Guevara was passed fit and is ready to face the Trinidad and Tobago side today at the Olympic Stadium in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Guevara had gotten a knock in practice on Tuesday and had not recovered 100%, but is now feeling up and ready for the battle on Saturday.
He told the Honduras press that after achieving a resounding 4-0 victory against Costa Rica the team spirits are quite high and is ready for their next battle.
"We're going to get 12 points from our remaining games and not have to depend on anybody to help us."
David Sauzo told LaPrensa.hn online press when asked if he was able to play the entire game. "If I play ninety or fifty minutes or whatever, let's make the most while I am on the field."
"We do not know how good Trinidad is. We are only thinking of our team, which is in good fitness and will give their best on Saturday."
David Suazo last played for Honduras in a 1-0 victory against Mexico in 2008.
Danilo Turcios who is one of the engines of the Honduran national team said he is in perfect condition should he get a chance to play against Trinidad and Tobago. Dani has a wealth of experience and has played in Uruguay, Guatemala and Mexico. He played in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and in the Copa America 2001 in Colombia, where Honduras took third place beating Brazil in the process.
Latapy not giving up anything
Russell Latapy meantime told the Honduran press that the pressure was not on T&T, but actually on Honduras.
"So far there is nothing that worries me. Honduras plays at home and are under pressure to win, they are ten points in this group and need more points to qualify and most likely they want to go for the victory which is normal. My only concern is the selection of Trinidad and Tobago and to get a favorable outcome and I'm sure we will get it."
"This stadium is a place where you can have a great game and we wanted to come early to train and acclimatise. In training injuries always occur but today no one is injured and hope to be ready for the big game."
Trinidadians know that the field of San Pedro Sula is a difficult place for any team. Those teams which have played here have not been able to take a point away and this can be partly attributed to the climate, since the Industrial Capital hellish heat prevails.
"We came five days before because we have many players who play in Europe and would not take them to train in Trinidad and three days after a long trip to Honduras, so better we came here and got us acclimated to compact a good team."
The combined island republic has several experienced players in their ranks, some of whom are soon approaching retirement. Such is the case of striker Dwight Yorke, who is 38 years old and comes in as an assistant coach.
"It's normal in football, any team is a combination of generations who seek to do good things for their country. My job is to find the balance to make things right."
During training at the Olympic stadium coach Latapy and assistant Yorke took off their overalls and slipped on their uniforms and played with the rest of the players.
Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones and new Ipswich Town singing Carlos Edwards are also key members for the Soca Warriors.
Message from the fans
On behalf on the Soca Warriors Online we would like to wish the Trinidad and Tobago national football team the best of luck in Honduras today and in Trinidad on September 9th. Keep believing to keep achieving.
Keep focused and play your hearts out Soca Warriors. Your whole attitude will change when you understand that limitations are temporary.
One ambition - Three points.
By: Shaun Fuentes (TTFF).
Trinidad and Tobago’s Senior Footballers will take the field at the Olympic Metropolitan Stadium in San Pedro Sula with one ambition: To come away with three points.
That was the message coming from the Russell Latapy coached team as the former FC Porto midfielder did his final bit of tuning up for the crucial encounter expected to be played in front of 40,000 screaming Honduran fans from 7pm (9pm T&T Time).
Tour agents here said they were expecting close to forty (40) T&T fans to come over for the game while there are correspondents from two radio stations 105 fm and I 95.5 fm here to carry live broadcast. The game will also be carried live on CNMG in Trinidad.
The T&T players spent most of Friday with their legs up before Latapy put them through one final session at the Francisco Morazan Stadium from 6pm. The match venue session took place on Thursday.
The main streets outside the team’s hotel, the Hilton Princess, had several vendors lining it with Honduras memorabilia and shirts and there was the usual whistles and jeers as the players took their 15-minute walk around the hotel.
With the news breaking in England that Dwight Yorke had retired from playing the game, the ex-Manchester United star made it clear that he was still committed to playing a role in T&T’s football.
“Basically I’ve agreed to take up the role as assistant coach for the remainder of the campaign and then we’ll take it from there. I’m still very much involved in completing my coaching badges but I would like to stay involved in the game in some capacity,” Yorke told TTFF Media on Friday at the Hilton Princess Hotel.
“My aim is to build on all the experience and hopefully manage a team one day in England. At the moment I’m here to help Russell and Trinidad and Tobago football as best as I can and that’s where the situation is at the moment,” added the former Aston Villa man.
Head coach Latapy expects nothing less than a tough encounter but he added “The pressure is on Honduras… they are at home and they have to win in front of their home crowd. I believe that if we can get all our ingredients right then there’s no reason why we shouldn’t believe in our chances.
“It’s a stadium that both teams have to play on. We wanted to get out here and get acclimatized and we got that. Honduras are on ten points and they are thinking like any other team whereby if they win all their home games then they should quality.
My worry is not about Honduras but about my national team players and getting them to play to their full potential. I think if we can do that like I said, we can match any team in the world,” Latapy said.
Concacaf President Jack Warner, TTFF General Secretary Richard Groden and an entourage from Trinidad will be at the Stadium for the match.
Fifa.com added “The inspiring play of Glen, Edwards and Kenwyne Jones, the dual-island nation has every reason to believe that it can mount a late charge.
"The victory against El Salvador was vital for us and I believe it could be the kick-start we need to push ourselves forward in this round," said Sunderland striker Jones. "The win has made us believe more that we are capable of turning our chances around and the fans were also happy with the result.
The important thing now is for us to maintain this momentum and take it into the next two matches," he said. "We need to try and win all our remaining games and that can only happen if we believe in ourselves and play to our full potential."
For the aspiring Soca Warriors, qualifying for their second consecutive FIFA World Cup is certainly not out of reach, but will require, at the very least, a healthy dose of togetherness.
The referee for the encounter is American Mark Geiger and his assistants are from USA and Jamaica.