Trinidad & Tobago (pictured) trains at the Estadio Maracana on October 7, 2015, a day before it meets host Panama in an international friendly. (Photo: TTFA Media)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – When they last met, Trinidad & Tobago rallied from a one-goal deficit to force a 1-1 draw against Panama in July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup and send their quarterfinal encounter to penalty kicks.
The Panamanians survived the nine-round shootout, 6-5, to advance to the semifinals.
There will be less at stake on Thursday night when they meet in a friendly, but both sides are preparing to start their journey for a significant prize: qualification to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Panama has won four of the five previous meetings between them, but Trinidad captain Kenwyne Jones acknowledged that the visiting Soca Warriors have evolved.
“I think the present team has come a long way over the past two years as was evident at the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the last friendly with Mexico,” said the Cardiff City forward. “I was part of the team that beat them (Panama) here in 2005, but history will show that the results didn’t look too good for us since then. Things are a bit different now. The team is performing at a higher level and we will be looking to reverse the results.”
Panama, which ultimately finished third at the Gold Cup, is all about business. It’s treating the match at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez very seriously.
“Of course, we play to win and want to be as strong as we can,” said head coach Hernan Dario Gomez. “The opponents are also preparing for the qualification, so both teams will be trying to play a good game and to get a good result before the qualifiers.
Trinidad manager Stephen Hart is eager to gauge his development process and test his players on Central American soil. Their response will play a role in future planning.
“The most important thing right now with our games is how we approach the game and how we play,” the former Canada head coach said. “It’s not so much about the opposition, but about getting things right within our team structure.
“We’ve had some good sessions. The team is coming along pretty well and there is competition for places in the team. I’ve been around these players for some time now, so it’s just a matter of us working together, continuing to build that chemistry and getting on with the task before us.”