Trinidad & Tobago's Kenwyne Jones (red jersey) looks to avoid a Honduran tackle during a World Cup qualifier on November 15, 2016, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (Photo: CA-Images)
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago -- In the final round of qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Trinidad & Tobago lost its opening two games to the United States (2-1, home) and Guatemala (5-1, away).
Eight games and 13 points later, however, the Soca Warriors finished in fourth place to secure a place in an intercontinental continental playoff against Bahrain, ultimately qualifying for Germany 2006.
After dropping decisions in a pair of qualifiers to kick off the CONCACAF Hexagonal for the next World Cup last week (0-2 home v Costa Rica; 1-3 away v Honduras), T&T is banking on history repeating itself.
“It is disappointing, but I am still very optimistic,” said forward and team captain Kenwyne Jones, who appeared in two matches at the 2006 finals. “We were in the same position in the 2006 qualifiers. We have eight games to go. The gap is not wide in points between teams as yet.
“Still a lot of games and time left to improve things and put our best foot forward in 2017. We have no reason to panic. We will get the campaign back on track soon.”
The 32-year-old striker will be joining Atlanta United for its inaugural Major League Soccer campaign in 2017. He is one of four players in the current T&T squad to have played in a previous Hexagonal. Despite such inexperience at this level, Jones is confident that the quality is there to deliver.
“Experience is something you cannot replace. It is something that you develop over time,” the former Sunderland standout expressed. “We have the technical ability to finish in the qualification spots and that is exactly what we are pushing for. I feel some results we will have to grind out, so it is going to require a lot of determination and hard work from our players.”
Another item on T&T’s agenda is the 2016/17 Scotiabank CFU Men’s Caribbean Cup. The Soca Warriors failed to reach the competition’s final for the first time since 2010 and will have to compete in a Caribbean playoff in January for fifth place, facing Haiti and Suriname. The winner of that three-team group will then meet the fifth-place side from Central America for a Gold Cup berth.
“We want a Gold Cup spot,” finished Jones. “It is going to take more hard work, but we have to do what we have to do and get back to winning ways as soon as possible. I have 100% confidence in the team to get back on track.”