Trinidad and Tobago’s Olympic footballers pulled off a sensational 9-1 victory over Suriname on Monday night to clinch a place in the CONCACAF Final Round of Olympic qualification in the United States next March.
After going down 5-2 to hosts St Kitts/Nevis on Saturday and registering a 1-1 draw Cuba three days before, T&T went into their final encounter against Suriname needing to win by at least six clear goals to have any hopes of sneaking one of the two spots and they delivered all the goods to prove their doubters wrong, totally dominating a shell-shocked Suriname team that had opened with a 1-0 win over the hosts on Thursday night before losing 4-2 to Cuba.
The Cubans got a second half equalizer to hold the Kittitians 1-1 in Monday’s second match to top the group with five points. T&T ended on a plus five goal difference and St Kitts on a plus two.
T&T and Cuba will now join hosts USA, Mexico, Canada, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama in the final round from March 22-April 2 in Nashville, Kansas and Carson.
The teams will be split into two groups with the top two teams from each advancing to the semi-final stage and the finalists advancing to the 2012 London Olympics. The draw for that tournament will be made soon.
Following the team’s disappointing showing on Saturday, head coach Angus Eve appeared to have a mountainous task to prepare his players for a challenge that was not new to them. They had to defeat Dominica by four clear goals to come out of the previous CFU round and accomplished that convincingly.
No one had however expected a 5-2 loss to St Kitts which was orchestrated mainly by English-born West Bromwich midfielder Romain Sawyers. But T&T’s Kevin Molino had other things on his mind. The Orlando City midfielder was in ripping form, hitting a first half hat-trick to give T&T a 4-0 cushion at the break. But the job was still far from over at that stage.
Eve maintained that his squad had the right depth and made seven changes to his starting team from the one that lost to St Kitts.
Coming into the team for the first time was Caledonia AIA defender Nuru Abdullah Muhammad, St Ann’s Rangers Kareem Moses and W Connection’s Jomal Williams while goalkeeper Andre Marchan retained his spot and FC Santa Rosa’s Jean Luc Rochford, Micah Lewis and Jayson Joseph were also included. Joseph was used in a right back position instead of his accustomed left midfield role.
Molino was pushed into the forward line to partner Jamal Gay after playing all the previous matches dating back to the Pan American Games in midfield. And he didn’t fail to deliver. Molino and Lewis combined perfectly and the Surinamese defence struggled to contain them.
Molino opened T&T’s account with a clinical finish from inside the box on a Lewis delivery. His other goals would come in similar fashion while Lewis put his name on the scoresheet when he connected well on a Joevin Jones cross.
Sean De Silva netted when he hit home on a rebound after his penalty hit was saved following a foul on Lewis. Molino then added his fourth after a build up that left the Suriname defense in disarray.
Lewis added a second item while Gay scored his second and third goals of the tournament to push the T&T tally to a mark that left them in a comfortable position.
But they kept going at their opponents and the Surinamese goalkeeper had no less than nine good stops to make to prevent his team from falling further behind. Gay also missed his hattrick near the end with a couple efforts being saved and narrowly missing the upright.
Eve was elated with the team’s comeback performance, crediting belief and strong character for the swift response.
“We stayed positive and as I said before, I believed in the ability of the players in this squad and I knew we were capable of better. I thought we could have been better against St Kitts but they were very much up for that match and they took their chances. Tonight it was our turn to turn it up a notch,” Eve told TTFF Media
“Almost everyone wrote us off including the fans but we’ve been here before and the boys knew that they had to dig deep if they wanted to stay alive.
I trained with them in the session after the last game just to try and pick them up a bit and I opted for starting all the guys who didn’t previously play in the tournament. I’m happy to say that everyone gave an excellent display tonight. It was like holding back a horse and just letting it loose in the case of the new boys,” Eve added
Goals were hard to come by despite the numerous chances that came T&T’s way in the previous games and Eve went on to add, “Goalscoring has been a problem for us so for this game I opted to put Molino up front with Jamal Gay.
Molino has an exceptional presence in midfield and the boys always want to get the ball to him because they love teaming up with him. So by pushing him up alongside Gay it meant that the ball would get closer to him near or around the 18-yard and Gay kept winning all the high balls. Kevin was right there to latch on.
“I also said to them, using the AC Milan 4-0 win over Chievo on the weekend as an example, that we had a job to complete and we would do it goal by goal and play the game half by half.
So we knew we wanted to be up by at least four goals in the first half and then we had another four or more to get in the second half. And with every goal the boys knew they had to pick the ball up and get it to the centre of the pitch to get going again.”
With this round out of the way, TTFF did indicate in prior discussions with coaches and staff members that those who were previously on monthly stipends would be in line for contract offers for the new year and Anthony Harford has assured that new discussions will be held regarding this, once details are finalized with the Ministry of Sport which previously noted that part funding from the 2014 World Cup campaign would be utilized for the 2012 Olympic campaign.
T&T start team: Andre Marchan, Joevin Jones, Jeromie Williams, Jayson Joseph, Kareem Moses, Nuru Abdullah-Muhammad, Jomal Williams, Micah Lewis, Jean-Luc Rochford, Kevin Molino, Jamal Gay.