WORLD CUP: Profile – trinidad and tobago (group b)

Just a few short months ago, you would have been hard pushed to find anybody willing to gamble on Trinidad and Tobago making it through to their first FIFA World Cup. However, that did not stop this tiny Caribbean nation of just 1.1 million people from overcoming the odds and the weight of history to earn a well-deserved place at football’s high table.

After having got the better of the Dominican Republic in the first group series, the Caribbean side were grouped with the mighty Mexicans in the next phase. They may have gone on to lose both games against their more illustrious rivals, but the islanders were still able to make it through to the ‘Hexagonal’ final qualifying stage thanks to wins over St Kitts, Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Even following these valuable victories, few people fancied T&T’s chances of progressing from a group that included the US, Costa Rica, Panama and Guatemala.

A terrible start to the final qualifying stage saw T&T pick up just one point from their first three matches, a paltry total which seemed to confirm the fans’ worst fears and saw morale in the camp plummet to a new low. However, the arrival on Caribbean shores of experienced Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker breathed new life into T&T’s campaign. The new coach got off to the best possible start with a 2-0 win over Panama before seeing his side put in a great performance against Mexico. The game may have ended in a 2-0 defeat for the Soca Warriors, but the commitment shown augured well for Beenhakker’s new charges. A narrow 1-0 defeat in the USA was followed by a 3-2 win over direct rivals Guatemala. A further 2-0 reverse at the hands of Costa Rica in San Jose meant that T&T went into their final game against Mexico needing to record a historic win. Against all the odds, they took three priceless points securing a 2-1 triumph to book their place in a play-offs with Bahrain.

Even so, the two games against their Asian rivals could not have been more dramatic. In Port of Spain, Christopher Birchall’s wonder strike levelled the game and keep the locals in

the hunt. In the return match, with the odds once again stacked against them, the Soca Warriors refused to lie down, grabbing a magnificent 1-0 win to spark scenes of joyous celebration back home.