Mexico aren’t Panama, but Trinidad and Tobago are a bit more confident

​Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino, left, holds off a challenge from Panama’s Edgar Barcenas during a FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia qualifier at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain on March 24, 2017. (Photo courtesy Trinidad and Tobago Football Association)

Trinidad and Tobago face a steeper test in Mexico when they host the perennial CONCACAF giants from 7pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain in CONCACAF Final Round (Hexagonal) of FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying.

But the red, white and black have a boost in confidence after rebounding from two opening Final Round defeats to edge Panama 1-0 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium last Friday, picking up their first points of the ‘Hex’ under new head coach Dennis Lawrence.

There was, however, little time for celebrating with new ‘Hex’ leaders Mexico to prepare for around the corner.

The Mexicans are coming off a 2-0 win over previous leaders Costa Rica in Mexico City, a high that included captain and former Barcelona star, Rafael Marquez, celebrating 20 years of service to his national team and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez equalling the all-time El Tri record of Jared Borgetti with 46 goals.

Chicharito, a former Manchester United frontman and current Bayer Leverkusen star, scored on seven minutes against Costa Rica with his first goal in nine months for Mexico to finally level the national record in his 89th appearance for the El Tri.

Meanwhile, back in Trinidad and Tobago, Kevin Molino’s brilliant first-half goal separated the hosts from Panama, a side that lacked teeth in offence.

But Mexico, the seven-time Gold Cup champions, possesses both bark and bite. And, all eyes will again be on the 28-year-old Chicharito against Trinidad and Tobago as he looks to break his national scoring record.

“The idea is [to continue to] be confident and be brave and do the things we worked on in training,” said Trinidad and Tobago head coach Lawrence.

“[I feel] exactly as I felt going into the Panama game—optimistic (and) encouraged. But obviously understanding that it is not going to be easy. But [against Mexico] I think [our players] are going with a bit more confidence,” added the former assistant coach to Italian Roberto Martinez at Wigan Athletic, Everton and Belgium.

CONCACAF Final Round (Hex) World Cup 2018 qualifying standings

#

Team

MP

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

Pts.

1

Mexico

3

2

1

0

4

1

3

7

2

Costa Rica

3

2

0

1

6

2

4

6

3

Panama

3

1

1

1

1

1

0

4

4

United States

3

1

0

2

7

6

1

3

5

Trinidad & Tobago

3

1

0

2

2

5

-3

3

6

Honduras

3

1

0

2

3

8

-5

3


Mexico leads the ‘Hex’ with 7 points, followed by Costa Rica with six and Panama on four, while, in descending order, the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, and Honduras are all on three.

The top three qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia, while the fourth-place nation advances to a playoff against Asia’s fifth-place finishers.

Trinidad and Tobago lost their opening games of the home-and-away ‘Hex’ against Costa Rica (2-0) and Honduras (3-1) last November under former coach Stephen Hart. But Lawrence, who was a team member of the twin-island’s historic World Cup 2006 berth, reminded that although the Russia 2018 campaign is difficult, it’s not impossible.

“We have to start believing as a nation that it can be done,” Lawrence said as he called on supporters to grow in confidence behind his team.

“Of course it is very difficult, but it can be done. We have to get away from the idea that: when it looks like it’s going happen then we get on board. Let’s get behind the boys now. Let’s give them every single thing to try and get us there.”

Lawrence said he wanted his players to show the people of Trinidad and Tobago “a team that wanted to fight for their country” against Panama, and “they did that.” He said while Mexico are a very good team and he expects a very competitive game, he hopes his players can turn up as determined as they were against Panama.

“We cannot allow Mexico to take total control of the game which they are extremely good at,” Lawrence said during today’s (Monday) pre-game press briefing. “It’s going to be a good test for our group, but the idea is to be brave and try and go toe-to-toe on Mexico and ensure that we stay in the game from that point of view. We need to believe that we can compete and we can do well against them.

“We have to stay focused. What we did [against] Panama was fantastic but it’s over and it’s gone. We are now going into the Mexico game against one of the Wold’s best football teams in my opinion and we need to be focused,” ended the T&T coach.