When the Trinidad and Tobago line up was released to face 11th ranked Mexico in the opening Group A fixture, one would have thought that the Soca Warriors were looking to save the starters for El Salvador and Guatemala, teams they had a better chance to win against. Nicklas Frenderup was dropped to the substitutes bench, so were Kevin Molino, Neveal Hackshaw and Marcus Jospeh. At the end of 90 minutes, no one would have thought that the Soca Warriors who ranked 201, who were knocked out by Bahamas (a country known as a vacation destination and athletics) during the World Cup qualifiers would draw against one of the top teams in the world. On the night of July 10th 2021, the same night Argentina ended a 28 year drought of international senior trophies, by winning the Copa America 1-0 against Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago did the unexpected, drawing against a full strength Mexico.
The game plan was clear: Soak up the pressure and play for the counter-attack. Mexico dominated the statistics as evidenced by the lion’s share of the possession. Mexico had the ball 83% of the time and that allowed them to fire 30 shots, of which 7 were on target. Marvin Phillip, who wore the captain’s arm band made some top saves that will remind Soca Warriors fans of the 0-0 match they played against Sweden at the 2006 World Cup. Trinidad and Tobago did not have a single shot on target and only 4 shots in total. Although they had a chance in the dying stages of the game but it was snuffed out by Mexico goalkeeper Ricardo Tallavera.
While some fans were happy with the result, some were on social media bemoaning the lack of technical ability by the players and did not support the coach with the ‘the players can’t trap’ rhetoric.
With every passing minute of the final moments of the match, there was the tense, worried feeling. The agony was extended by 7 minutes, when the assistant referee signaled the additional time to play. Then Mexico scored in the ‘92nd’ minute. Then it was ruled offside, you could have heard the collective gasp when the Mexican players were looking bemused after the officials made their decision. Then, finally, the final whistle, ending the wait, the agony and a huge sigh of relief as the Trinidad and Tobago Soca Warriors earned a point and join Mexico at the top of the table.
Now with Mexico out of the way, the matches against Guatemala and El Salvador now seem a lot more bearable and a place in the second round beckons .