IT HAS been a challenging time for Trinidad and Tobago during the Hexagonal stage of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. With only one win from their opening six matches, the Caribbean nation face an uphill task to make a second appearance at a world finals become reality.
Their only Hexagonal result came on March 24 when they edged Panama 1-0 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo, with goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams registering a clean sheet. Despite their difficulties, the 32-year-old shot-stopper remains positive about the team’s chances of qualifying for Russia 2018.
“It’s been challenging, to say the least,” Williams told FIFA.com. “We struggled a bit to get some form of stability because we changed coaches, and it’s obviously tough when you change coaches at a crucial stage, like this one. In saying that, we’ve had some good performances under the new coach, Dennis Lawrence. It’s for us now to buckle down and get some points because we really need some points to stay alive in this World Cup qualifying campaign.”
THE LAWRENCE FACTOR
Trinidad and Tobago’s recent struggles were not helped by a period of instability in the team’s coaching position. Stephen Hart’s reign on the bench ended after opening Hexagonal defeats to Costa Rica and Honduras last November. The well-travelled Belgian Tom Saintfiet succeeded Hart, but stayed a little over a month in the role before resigning after the team’s failure to qualify for this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
It prompted the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association to turn to Lawrence to steady the ship. A member of the Soca Warriors side that qualified for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Lawrence’s knowledge of trying to qualify from CONCACAF has been invaluable to Williams and his team-mates.
“Throughout all the troubles that we had in such a short period of time, I think Dennis’ experience of having played in the Hexagonal and helping the national team qualify for the World Cup, plus his experience of coaching in England, has allowed him to come in with all the right experience,” Williams said.
“He has all the right people around him as well – the likes of Sol Campbell, Stern John, Stuart Charles-Fevrier – these guys have really put their heads together and they are really able to pass across the relevant information that we need to be able to really transform us quickly and as smoothly as possible.”
As they look ahead to their next set of qualifiers, the scenario for Trinidad and Tobago is a clear one. They effectively need maximum points from their home clash with Honduras on September 1 and their visit to Panama four days later to have any realistic chance of earning automatic qualification for Russia 2018. Williams believes his side have the ability to deliver when needed.
“The mood around the camp and the team is one of great optimism,” he said. “I think culturally as a society in Trinidad and Tobago, we tend to produce our best when our backs are against the wall. These games against Honduras and Panama are very important for us, but knowing we can compete and can actually ruffle the feathers of the best in CONCACAF, I think it’s now for us to transfer this into winning performances and get three points in each of the next two encounters.”(FIFA.com)