As the Digicel Caribbean Cup finals 2010 continue in Martinique, Cuba are the first qualifiers assured of a semi-final berth in the Digicel Cup 2010. However, one of the Digicel Cup pre-tournament favourites, Trinidad & Tobago, shocked fans when they crashed out of the tournament last night after a second consecutive loss in the Group stage of the finals. Despite a very convincing qualification from Group F, with three undefeated matches – including hammering 2006 Digicel Cup champions, Haiti – the Soca Warriors attempts for the championship title came to a premature end following their 1-0 loss to Grenada. The team’s Coach, Russell Latapy, spoke exclusively to www.digicelfootball.com about his team’s efforts, what went wrong and what the future is for Trinidad & Tobago football.
“Firstly, I’m very disappointed. I thought that we had a squad of players that would go further in this tournament. As the coach I can speak for them and we are all disappointed. Firstly, we are disappointed by our performance in our first game and, secondly, by the results of the second game. It is easy to point fingers but the reality is we were much more prepared for the Group stages compared to these games. We never had an opportunity to play a friendly game which would have helped and we only had four training sessions together as a team and I suppose that showed. However, that’s only one aspect, and then there’s the other aspect – if you don’t score goals, you don’t win matches. We created enough opportunities – but finishing them is another story.
“I think in the first game we didn’t play as well as we could have, we were very disjointed compared to the last three games in Trinidad when we played as a unit and delivered much better overall. In the second game, I think we were much better, we were much more compact and we created enough opportunities. Grenada did score a wonderful goal but if you look at the stats, so many goals hit the post and, from there, they go anywhere but the Grenada goal went in so there is an element of luck. And, although I think you make your own luck – with willingness, desire and approach – sometimes things just don’t go your way. But when you look at the Grenada goal – if you gave that player 20 more chances to score like that again, it wouldn’t happen, however the second goal against Cuba wasn’t great defending.
“For the second game, it was basically a change of system. In terms of personnel, we had a couple of knocks and injuries so we wanted to bring in players who were physically 100% fit. We went 4-4-2 against Cuba and we weren’t compact enough, so we went 4-5-1 against Grenada and were a bit more compact. Again, we created opportunities but didn’t finish.
“The Caribbean teams have improved for reasons such as the way the game has changed and the coaching methods. Everyone is playing to a better level and the physical fitness of most teams is on par which closes the gap even further. As far as Trinidad is concerned, we are in a transitional period. If you look at the team who went to the World Cup in 2006, they were older even then. Most of them played in the 2010 World Cup campaign and were all in their 30s. What I try to do is bring on the young players and that takes time. The older players who I could have chosen may have been too old or two slow. So, it is a case of giving these young guys a chance to play at international level, giving them the chance to see what it’s like. Like anything, it’s a learning experience – and that’s what we did, we learned. We have five or six guys under the age of 22 who all played. The thing is, little by little, you have to bring them in but for us there was not a gradual adjustment unfortunately.
“One way or another, it is my responsibility. I stand by my decision and I believe these guys all have a bright career ahead of them in football.
“I think in the Caribbean we have always been very talented as technical footballers. Maybe that’s because of the lack of facilities – kids just go out and play. However, the Digicel Kick Start Clinics are a great initiative because it teaches them the basics of the game as well as the tactical elements. You’re not going to see a change overnight in this region but eventually over time with programmes like these, we will develop better players over the long term.
“In football, like any other business you live or die by your results. It would be wrong of me to speak on what will happen going forward, but I will sit down with those involved when I get back and we will talk. In the meantime, we have one game left which we will play with pride and commitment and when I’m back in Trinidad, we will take things from there,” he concluded.