There was a time when the Soca Warriors would beat El Salvador coming and going. Before Wednesday’s defeat to the Central Americans, the Soca Warriors counted six consecutive unbeaten matches against El Salvador, dating back to October 2007, with the last lost to the Salvadorians coming in the 2007 Gold Cup in June, when Wim Risjbergen had a weakened Trinidad and Tobago, after the top players who represented the country at the previous year’s FIFA World Cup were blacklisted. El Salvador on Wednesday had beaten Trinidad and Tobago for the first time in 14 years.
There was a time the Trinidad and Tobago Football Team were the ‘fourth’ team in CONCACAF, behind Mexico, USA and Costa Rica. In 1989, the Strike Squad just missed out on a World Cup appearance as they finished 3rd in the CONCACAF Final round of World Cup Qualifiers. Costa Rica won the qualifying tournament, with the USA second and the Strike Squad third. Mexico did not take part. At that time, the World Cup only accommodated 24 teams and CONCACAF was only allocated 2 teams, thus eliminating the Strike Squad from going to Italy.
Fast Forward to sixteen years later, when CONCACAF was allocated three and a half qualifying spots for the 2006 World Cup, the Trinidad and Tobago team, now known as the Soca Warriors, finished fourth behind Mexico, USA and Costa Rica. The rest is history. Being the fourth team, the Soca Warriors played Bahrain over two legs for a World Cup spot in Germany, and qualified.
Now fast forward to the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, another sixteen years, the Soca Warriors did not even progress to the CONCACAF final stage (after failing to beat Bahamas and Puerto Rico in the semi final group stage), for the fourth time since the 1990 qualifiers. In fact, this country’s best and consistent years were between the 2002 and 2010 qualifiers as they qualified for the CONCACAF Final Round in each of the campaigns, after failing in 1994 and 1998.
These are trying times for the Soca Warriors. No longer getting the backing of businessman, magnate, and former FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner, the Soca Warriors have been reduced to being just another Caribbean team. Before the Caribbean Cup was abolished, the Trinidad and Tobago dominated the competition between 1989 (its inception) and 2001 with 8 titles. However, they have not won the title since, and what is even worse, failed to make it past the group stage in 2008 and 2010. Imagine, Trinidad and Tobago, once the mightiest Caribbean team failing to make it out of the group stage of the Caribbean Cup, after winning the tournament 8 times and being runners up 5 times.
There is a sense of hope with interim coach Angus Eve. Eve took the team with less than a month before the CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifiers and got some good results, including a goalless draw with Mighty Mexico and a 6-1 win over Montserrat. It is left to be seen if he will be made the full time gaffer and take the Soca Warriors into next year’s Nations League. Until then we hope that the once mighty will rise again.