Soca Warriors' Eve: More at stake than Gold Cup qualification
VICTORIES in Trinidad and Tobago’s upcoming Concacaf Nations League matches against the Bahamas in Nassau on Friday, and Nicaragua at Dwight Yorke Stadium, Tobago, on Monday, are the first targets that must be achieved on the team’s quest for greater things.
So said TT men’s head coach Angus Eve, who believes back-to-back wins are crucial, but also open a window of opportunity for TT football.
If TT win both matches, they will top Group C of League B and be promoted to the A League, which automatically books them a place in the 2023 Concacaf Golf Cup. However, Eve thinks these potential victories carry more long-term benefits for TT.
“There’s much more at stake than Concacaf Gold Cup qualification,” Eve said from his Ft Lauderdale, Florida base during Tuesday’s online press briefing.
“The short-term goal is to win these matches, but it gives you the platform to go further. Being promoted back to the A League puts us in a better FIFA World Cup grouping because we’d now be one of the seeded teams.
“There’s Conmebol Copa America next year and the opportunity to qualify for that. I don’t think a lot of people appreciate how important these matches are in the realm of a lot of the things we can do going forward.”
Returning to the Gold Cup is just the first step in helping TT out of a distant 104th FIFA ranking. Higher-ranked FIFA nations want to play higher-ranked teams so they can also improve their global standings, Eve confirmed.
He added, “We’re looking for clothing sponsors, different stuff for the team. When we were playing top teams in the world, we were ranked at 25 and 26 (2001). We don’t get these matches any more simply because of where we’re ranked. We need to return to being in that type of space.”
Eve also questioned why some domestic clubs chose to make their players unavailable for the recent Jamaica tour for locally-based players, who had been training with the national set-up months before the new TT Premier Football League kicked off ten days ago.
He understood the two-match tour – which TT won one match 1-0 and drew the other 0-0 – was outside of the official FIFA window, but thinks clubs should have looked at the bigger picture and allowed them to travel because it would benefit the entire national unit.
Before the tour, and just before the domestic league started, club La Horquetta Rangers held a Caribbean preseason tour, which made their players unavailable for national selection.
Additionally, Point Fortin Civic Centre did not make their players available for the Jamaica trip.
“Real Gill’s (Rangers) travel schedule played a part in him and other players being unavailable. They chose to go with their club and as you know, them and Civic chose not to send their players when we went to Jamaica. We do understand the clubs have the right to not send their players because it was outside of a FIFA window.
“But thinking about a bigger picture, if we are playing in A and the team is qualifying for Gold Cup, most definitely we needed the players at that point in time. When Jamaica’s domestic league was going on, they (clubs) gave all their players a chance to play.
“We need to take a feather from their cap, the bigger picture is TT football and not your own individual space. A lot of people been clamouring for players like Weslie John and Nathaniel Garcia (Civic players) and the clubs refused to send them. But it is what it is.”
TT are currently in Florida for a residential training camp before the match in the Bahamas. They depart for Nassau on Thursday.
However, TT will be without the likes of attacking pair Kevin Molino and Levi Garcia, who are both injured. Eve said he’ll have to work with what he has but is confident in his 24-man team, which was selected on Monday.
“Kevin has been distraught. He’s gone through some injuries over a period of time. He wanted to be here. The camp has been really good so far and we’re firmly focused on the task at hand.
“All the guys who have been called up have been active with their clubs in one way or the other. What we did for the locally-based players, playing the three matches (one match against Saint Martin), I thought they showed that we are fully match fit. We’re in a good place by way of match fitness heading into these games.”
"Soca Warriors’ Eve: More at stake than Gold Cup qualification"