By Charles Arthur
Following Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Bahrain in Port-of-Spain, the Trinidad
and Tobago national team travel to Bahrain knowing that nothing less than a
win in the return game on Wednesday will suffice.
Head coach, Leo Beenhakker, acknowledged his team had not played well but
said all is not lost. "One side of me says it’s a little bit disappointing and on
the other hand I can live with the draw simply because I know we didn’t play
very well," said the former Ajax and Real Madrid coach.
Team captain, the former Manchester United star, Dwight Yorke, who now plays
in Sydney, Australia, took a similar view, “I want to say that this game is
far from over. There’s still a next game to play. We know that the fans, the
whole nation will be disappointed with the result and maybe the performance. But
we know what needs to be done now and that certainly is going to Bahrain and
winning and putting it away.”
Trinidad and Tobago fell behind to a Bahrain goal on 72 minutes, but struck
back five minutes later with a long range strike from the England-born player,
Christopher Birchall. The 21-year-old Birchall, who plays for Port Vale in the
lowly English Football League One, qualifies for the Soca Warriors by virtue
of his mother being born in Trinidad. He is the first white player to play for
Trinidad in 60 years.
Birchall’s recent inclusion in the team coincided with an upturn in Trinidad
and Tobago’s form and helped them finish fourth in the CONCACAF qualifying
He said, "I was pretty nervous when I first joined up with the squad. I’m a
young white lad from England and I thought there might be some animosity
towards me because of that. But the lads couldn’t have been more friendly and
they’ve made me feel so welcome, and the locals have been fantastic, too."
Proof that Birchall had been accepted came at a post-match party to celebrate
the 3-2 qualifying victory over Guatemala in September.
"A little fella tapped me on the shoulder, shook my hand and gave me a big
hug. It was Brian Lara. He’s an absolute legend and there he was telling me how
well I’d played. That was special, but actually getting to the World Cup would
be a dream come true."
Dwight Yorke, Trinidad’s captain, knows that his team will have to improve
for the second leg in Bahrain on Wednesday if they are to have a chance of
reaching Germany next summer. "We have to score," he said, and added, "We are more
than capable of scoring away from home."
Only three Caribbean sides have ever completed the feat of reaching the World
Cup Finals - Cuba (1938), Haiti (1974) and Jamaica (1998).