Trinidad and Tobago’s senior footballers will be seeking to give Otto Pfister his maiden victory as head coach of the “Soca Warriors” in today’s friendly international against India at Hasely Crawford Stadium from 5 pm.
Pfister has been in charge of the T&T team for just over three months but will have his first competitive survey at his talent pool in a game situation, eleven days before T&T’s opening 2014 World Cup qualifier against Bermuda at the Mucurapo venue.
Like any coach, he wants to win his first match but has his sights on the bigger encounters which naturally are the matches where points are at stake on the road to Brazil.
“Okay this match for us is just important for the preparation of the team. I think it’s a good opportunity for the boys to play. We have been training for close to four months and I think everybody now is ready for a match and looking forward to playing,” Pfister said yesterday.
Pfister held a light session at Hasely Crawford Stadium yesterday morning and the players went on a late evening walk on the waterfront close to Crowne Plaza Hotel. All local fans will be anticipating nothing but a win from T&T against a country that has earned little recognition through football but is aspiring toward greater heights.
“We know it’s important to win this match but there are other things we have to pay attention to,” said W Connection midfielder Hughtun Hector, who scored the winning goal in T&T’s last international match against Martinique last November.
“Also we haven’t played in some time so the match itself will show us exactly where we are at in terms of match readiness and how much we need to do again. Personally, I’m really anxious to put on the national shirt and go out there in front of the home crowd because we ended the Digicel Cup on a winning note but we haven’t played since then.
So having scored the goal back then too I have been waiting anxiously for another match.” Joe Public goalkeeper Marvin Phillip is one of the seasoned campaigners around T&T national teams, from having kept goal at the 2001 FIFA Under 17 World Cup to lining up during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
“The guys are eager to play and we will not be underestimating the Indians. This is a big game for us. We will be going all out because a good showing and a positive result are very important at this stage. It will give us a good boost going into the campaign,” Phillip said.
Some of the newcomers in the T&T side include Police’s Noel Williams, Caledonia AIA’s Micah Lewis and Akim Armstrong, and T&TEC goalkeeper Akini Adams.
Vetean striker Stern John is making a return to the team after a two-year absence caused mainly by an injury while Darryl Roberts, Anthony Wolfe, Andre Toussaint, Akeem Adams, Kern Cupid, Hayden Tinto and Keston Williams are among those who have experienced international football in T&T colours. Indian head coach Armando Colaco is expecting a tough outing.
“We know this match will not be easy for us but we are looking to take everything we can from it. We didn’t travel this far to come and be easy opponents for T&T. We haven’t seen too much of this team but we know that they played at the 2006 World Cup and they played well. For us we want to be formidable opponents and try our best to get a good result.”
Top striker for the “Bhangra Boys” Sunil Chhetri says that football in India is the biggest sport among the youth and the grassroots level. The All India Football Federation was up to Saturday trying to make arrangements to have the game televised live in India but fans will definitely get to see the action delayed and a live radio broadcast will be available to them.
There was also much buzz in that country on Friday as it was announced that Lionel Messi will travel with Argentina to play a friendly international at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on September 2.
Indian captain Climax Lawrence is expected to be the heart of their midfield with Pune FC striker Jeje Lalpekhlua likely to be Chhetri’s partner up front with the experienced Mahesh Gawli expected to marshal their defence alongside Gourmangi Singh.
“It’s going to be a great game for the both teams. We’re really looking forward to it,” said Singh. “I know we will not have an easy time out on the pitch but we also don’t intend to make it easy for Trinidad.
They will have to earn it in front of their fans,” Singh added. In three matches played between both countries in June 1984, India won the opener 3-1 at the National Stadium with the hosts bouncing back to win the second and third games by a 3-0 margin at Skinner Park and Arima Velodrome.
Gates open at 2 pm and tickets will also be on sale at the venue from that time. Fans are reminded that there will be no parking in the Stadium car park.
Soca Warriors face India.
By Ian Prescott (Express).
It's 13 days and counting. Today, Trinidad and Tobago take on India in their lone warm-up match, and then 12 days later the Soca Warriors entertain Bermuda, on September 2, in their opening match of the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.
T&T play their first match in eight months when a locally-based team face India from five p.m. at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. The Soca Warriors last played on November 30, 2010 when beating Martinique 1-0 on a 47th minute Houghton Hector goal, at the Digicel Caribbean Cup in Jamaica.
That was also the last match in which former national captain Russell Latapy was in charge. Today is the first under the care of recently- appointed veteran German coach Otto Pfister.
"Okay this match for us is just important for the preparation of the team. I think it's a good opportunity for the boys to play. We have been training for close to four months and I think everybody now is ready for a match and looking forward to playing," Pfister said.
"Of course it would have been nice to have had more warm-up games," assistant national coach Anton Corneal said. "But, the local players have been training hard, and when we add the foreign-based players to the squad they would already have been three weeks into their season, and would also have a good level of match fitness.
It is an opportunity for the local players to take advantage of being in front of the coach for long periods, so the coach can make a decision on their ability."
Expressing a similar sentiment was captain Densill Theobald: "The feeling is good. The boys are ready, and hopefully we can give a good performance."
There is some experience in the local squad, none more than 34-year-old veteran striker Stern John, who has played in the English Premier League with Birmingham City.
Theobald, 29, has had stints with Falkirk in Scotland and Hungary's Újpest, while 27-year-old striker Darryl Roberts has played with FC Rotterdam in Holland's top division. And another striker, Juma Clarance had a year in Turkey, after scoring in T&T's 2-1 loss to Italy at the Egypt 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
Add seasoned goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, Anthony Wolfe, Kern Cupid, Seon Power, Carlyle Mitchell, Akeen Adams, Hayden Tinto and Andrei Pacheco, and you have players with international caps.
Some of the newcomers in the T&T side are Police's Noel Williams, Caledonia AIA's Micah Lewis and Akim Armstrong, and T&TEC goalkeeper Akini Adams.
Joe Public keeper Phillip is an experienced campaigner.
"The guys are eager to play and we will not be underestimating the Indians. This is a big game for us. We will be going all out because a good showing and a result is very important at this stage. It will give us a good boost going into the campaign."
John added: "I think now is a good time for us. We are at a crossroad where we are rebuilding and hopefully everyone will rally with the team.The local players, they come out and give one hundred percent. We also have a lot of players to join the team so we have a lot to look forward to."
"We know it's important to win this match but there are other things we have to pay attention to," said W Connection midfielder Hector. "Also, we haven't played in some time so the match itself will show us exactly where we are at in terms of match readiness and how much we need to do again.
Personally, I am really anxious to put on the national shirt and go out there in front of the home crowd, because we ended the Digicel Cup on a winning note but we haven't played since then. So, having scored the goal back then, I have been waiting anxiously for another match."
Tickets for today's game can be bought at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, and cost $200 (covered stands) and $100 (uncovered stands). Gates open at two p.m.
Marvin Phillip (Joe Public), Akini Adams (T&TEC).
Noel Williams (Police FC), Keston Williams (Defence Force), Kern Cupid (W Connection), Carlyle Mitchell (Joe Public), Akeem Adams (T&TEC), Seon Power (North East Stars).
Densill Theobald (Caledonia AIA), Micah Lewis (Caledonia AIA), Anthony Wolfe (North East Stars), Hayden Tinto (Joe Public), Andrei Pacheco (T&TEC), Akeil Guevera (North East Stars), Akim Armstrong (Caledonia AIA), Hughtun Hector (W Connection).
Stern John (North East Stars), Andre Toussaint (Joe Public), Juma Clarence (Caledonia AIA), Darryl Roberts (Free Agent).
Subrata Pal (Pune FC), Karanjit Singh (Salgaocar SC), Laxmikant Kattimani (Dempo SC).
Valeriano Rebello (Dempo SC), Raju Gaikwad (Indian Arrows), Gourmangi Singh (Churchill Brothers SC), Mahesh Gawli (Dempo SC), Rowilson Rodrigues (Churchill Brothers SC), Debabrata Roy (Dempo SC), Robert Lalthalmuana (Churchill Brothers SC), Samir Naik (Dempo SC).
Climax Lawrence (Dempo SC), Steven Dias (Churchill Brothers SC), Peter Carvalho (Dempo SC), Clifford Miranda (Dempo SC), Lalrindika Ralte (Indian Arrows), Rocus Lamare (Salgaocar SC), Mehtab Hosain (Kingfisher East Bengal FC), Syed Nabi (Mohun Bagan AC).
Sunil Chhetri (Mohun Bagan AC), Jeje Lalpeklua (Pune FC), Sushil Singh (Kingfisher East Bengal FC), C.S. Sabeeth (Viva Kerala FC).