Trinidad & Tobago (pictured) celebrates after scoring against Mexico in a CONCACAF Gold Cup match on July 15, 2015, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Mexsport)
FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey – The dancing and celebrating were byproducts of the successes that help Trinidad & Tobago realize an objective that some didn’t think was possible.
But after a wild 4-4 draw with Mexico that clinched them the top spot in Group C, the Soca Warriors have turned the page and are focused squarely on Sunday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal match-up against Panama.
“It was the last group game and we achieved something great, but there’s still more to achieve,” defender Sheldon Bateau said. “Now the pressure is on to continue at that high level. To perform like this and step down the game after, then we would have wasted a big performance.”
Wednesday’s match against Mexico is being called by some the best in Gold Cup history. While that assertion would be good material for a spirited debate, the equalizer netted by Yohance Marshall was certainly the biggest of his career and his first on the international stage. The 29-year-old headed in a Joevin Jones corner deep in second-half stoppage time to secure the historic result.
“For me I think the performance we had, we can go up against anybody in the world,” said Marshall. “It’s all about the right mindset and believing in ourselves that we can do that.”
Trinidad & Tobago is no stranger to Panama. The teams played in a March friendly at Ato Boldon Stadium with the Canaleros coming up with a 1-0 win on Roman Torres’ first-half goal.
Bateau believes a different Trinidad team will step on the field come Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
“We have more senior players,” he noted. “Back then we had a young team, a new team. We weren’t as confident and as ready as we are now. We’re ready to give a good show.”
The 24-year-old defender, who will return to KV Mechelen for the new Belgian league campaign, has scored twice in this Gold Cup, finding the back of the net in the first half of wins against Guatemala and Cuba. His rise as a star has pleasantly coincided with Trinidad’s sensational form.
“The timing is perfect,” expressed Bateau. “I’m playing well, I’m scoring goals and I hope to continue going into my season.”
The Soca Warriors also reached the quarterfinals in the 2013 tournament, but suffered a 1-0 loss to Mexico. It was just one month after Stephen Hart was named head coach.
“I think now compared to some of the teams before, too many of the players were a bit older,” Bateau remarked. “Now we have young players who have been to youth World Cups, who have been to the last Gold Cup, so it’s the perfect mix of youth and experience.”
Trinidad is hoping to reach the Gold Cup semifinals for the first time since losing 1-0 to eventual champion Canada in 2000.
“It would be another goal that we set for this tournament and it would be good going forward to the World Cup qualifiers,” Marshall said.
While the Trinidadians are pleased to be in the quarterfinals, there is also a sense of pride that all four Caribbean teams, including Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba, reached the knockout stage.
“That’s great for the Caribbean and Caribbean football,” Marshall said. “No matter what the results are, one team from the Caribbean will be going on to the semifinals. I think that’s a good achievement.”