It’s FANTASTIC FRIDAY.
Yes, the final stage of qualifying for the FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia, begins on Friday Six teams will battle in CONCACAF, with the top three gaining an automatic qualification and the fourth, having to undergo a playoff in a bid to reach Russia.
Trinidad and Tobago host Costa Rica at the Hasely Crawford Stadium from 7 pm. The United States hosts Mexico in Ohio, while Panama travels to Honduras.
Meanwhile, coach Stephen Hart and captain Kenwyne Jones have both issued rallying calls to the local fans to turn out in their numbers on Friday to support the national team.
At a media conference at the Marriott Hotel, Mucurapo on Thursday, Hart said, “I think the home fans have a big role to play. They should make demands on us to attack and be adventurous. They should be making demands on us to defend and do the right things.
“They should push us and constantly let us know that they’ve paid their hard-earned money and they expect certain things from us,” he continued. “I see nothing wrong with that. That’s what football is all about.”
Jones, added, “I think it’s very important. All over the world, you can see what the crowd support can do for the home team, especially when you’re in difficult situations. It helps motivate you, it helps give you that extra push to be able to either get on top of teams or whatever situation (in) the game.
“We’re hoping that the stadium is (filled too) capacity and the fans are rooting for the home team.” The buildup to the game, at least from the TT perspective, revolved around two midfielders, Kevin Molino and the English- born John Bostock.
Molino was suspended by Hart for Friday’s match, as well as Tuesday’s match away to Honduras, for a pair of team curfew breaches, while Bostock, a day after receiving clearance from FIFA to make his international debut, announced his unavailability for the forthcoming games due to personal reasons.
“I can’t worry about who is not here,” said Hart. “I have 23 players in camp, all of who are capable, all who are fighting for a spot in the team.
About the Costa Rica team, Hart noted, “they have good balance and what we have to do is to be not afraid to play when we are in possession. We will need to try and disrupt the way they play as much as possible and make them uncomfortable.”
Asked about the defensive woes lately, Hart replied, “we’ve always been addressing it. Defending is about the team; one or two players might be placed in uncomfortable situations or they might make a mistake, but defending is about the team, everybody’s responsibility. When the ball is lost, go get it back. If we do that, then (we) don’t concede usually unless it’s a penalty or something that’s not in your control.”
Teams: TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: Jan-Michael Williams, Marvin Phillip, Adrian Foncette (goalkeepers); Jelani Peters, Aubrey David, Daneil Cyrus, Carlyle Mitchell, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Sheldon Bateau, Yohance Marshall (defenders); Khaleem Hyland, Andre Boucaud, Kevan George, Neveal Hackshaw, Joevin Jones, Cordell Cato, Levi Garcia, Marcus Joseph, Jomal Williams, Ataullah Guerra (midfielders); Kenwyne Jones, Trevin Caesar, Willis Plaza (strikers).
COSTA RICA: Keylor Navas, Patrick Pemberton, Esteban Alvarado (goalkeepers); Johnny Acosta, Kendall Waston, Michael Umana, Francisco Calvo, Cristian Gamboa, Ronald Matarrita, Bryan Oviedo, Jose Salvatierra, Pablo Salazar (defenders); Randall Azofeifa, Celso Borges, Yeltsin Tejeda, David Guzman, Bryan Ruiz, Cristian Bolanos, Johan Venegas, Rodney Wallace (midfielders); Joel Campbell, Ariel Rodríguez, Marco Uren (forwards).
MEXICO SEEKING TO BREAK THE JINX
In a remarkable coincidence, the United States has beaten Mexico 2-0 in all four of their World Cup qualifiers in Columbus, Ohio. In 2001, 2005, 2009, and 2013. On Friday, they meet in the same place, in another qualifier, and it will be chilly again. Enough is enough, say Mexico.
“It is a spectacular opportunity to end this statistic (in Columbus),” coach Juan Carlos Osorio said. For the qualifiers in the US and Panama, Osorio sought out experienced players, including 14 who play abroad.
Notable was the recall of Carlos Vela from Spain’s Real Sociedad. He hasn’t played for Mexico since 2015. Also back were brothers Jonathan and Giovani dos Santos, who did not play in the Copa America in June.
Veteran Rafael Marquez tasted several defeats in Columbus but had a good feeling this time. “This is a different time, with different players that will leave the past behind,” Marquez said.
US coach Jurgen Klinsmann has drawn on 15 players from the 2014 World Cup. But Clint Dempsey was not available because of cardiac arrhythmia.
“This match against Mexico is filled with emotions,” said US goalkeeper Tim Howard, who has blanked Mexico twice in Columbus.
Honduras and young blood
Honduras is seeking its third consecutive trip to a World Cup, and coach Jorge Luis Pinto has picked youngsters who played at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and reached the semifinals.
Honduras plays visiting Panama today, and two home players to watch are midfielder Romel Quioto and striker Alberth Elis.
“Coach Pinto’s experience will be key for our future,” Elis said.
In 2013 qualifying, Panama beat Honduras 2-0 and drew away 2-2.