Eve: Qualification won't be easy for 2026 48-team World Cup
TRINIDAD AND Tobago men’s football team coach Angus Eve is setting his sights on the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will be staged in three countries – United States, Canada and Mexico.
But Eve, the former TT captain and midfielder, says that the qualification process would not be easy, and it will require a collective effort for that dream to become a reality. Eve, who has been at the helm since June 2021, said on Tuesday, “We’ve (the technical staff) started the plans but, unfortunately, because of the politics off the field, it really affects what we are able to do on the pitch. We haven’t been playing consistently in the (FIFA match) windows.
“It is not easy for us to qualify for the World Cup, but we plan to revamp the team, to bring in (and expose) younger players, to give them the experience that they would need, so the next time the World Cup qualifying comes around in two years’ time, that they are ready,” he continued. “We have all of those plans, me and the staff, and we have proposed it to the normalisation committee already. It’s just to execute on it, which would take a lot of finances to do so.”
Has he identified the group of players who he will use to form the core for the 2026 campaign or is he looking at the overseas-born players to add to the pool?
Eve replied, “Yes (with the overseas-born players) but we’re having challenges in that regard. We also have the cadre of players who (are) already playing and there is a very good mix there of young and senior players, in that group that we already have training and playing games before.”
Concerning the step-by-step plans from now till 2026, inclusive of the Concacaf Nations League and friendly internationals, Eve said, “The FIFA windows are very clear for (international) teams. (For) the local players, we need to have a league going on here, so they can put themselves up for selection. It’s very difficult when players are not playing active football, to select them for a team.
“I thought we got away with it, to some degree, in the (2021 Concacaf) Gold Cup but you’re not going to get away with that all the time,” he added. “The foreign-based players, they would be playing with their clubs. We’ll continue to monitor those players, where we can look at the stats and all the other technological parts of it. Collectively that’s what we do. “(In) the international windows, we need to play, to bring the team together so we can have a unit playing (as) a cohesive group. Also, we need to have the buy-in from the Government, from the public, the private sector and corporate sector.”
With a 48-team tournament in 2026, is he planning from now or is he waiting until the official draw is made to make concrete plans? Eve responded, “That’s two different things. We still have to prepare for qualification and the basic preparation starts now because World Cup qualifying is in a year and (a bit) because this World Cup played late.
“At the end of the day, we need to be in the Gold Cup. All these stepping-stones take you to where you need to be. We need to qualify for the Gold Cup, that is our immediate goal, so that we can then be in the A league in Concacaf, which will give us better opposition when we are playing, so that we can really test ourselves. That leads to (a) better World Cup qualifying draw for us.”
Much of the build-up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar focussed on off-field issues, including the awarding of the tournament to the Asian nation, as well as Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and human rights record.
However, Eve pointed out, “If you listened to the people on the ground, they would tell you that the World Cup was fantastic. Even people that were told that it was controversial, from the standpoint of the allocation of the World Cup to the country, it has proven certain members of FIFA right.
“It’s one of the best World Cups that we’ve ever seen, from an organisational standpoint and, also, from a playing standpoint. I thought the World Cup was a huge success in Qatar.”
"Eve: Qualification won’t be easy for 2026 48-team World Cup"