we fetein' whole night, fetein' whole day
T&T ignite near the end
13 October 2005
Trinidad and Tobago waited until the bitter end to show their class andbook a historic spot in the Germany 2006 play-off with Asian upstartsBahrain. Just one step from the glory of a debut appearance at a FIFAWorld Cup™ finals and becoming only the second Caribbean side to do sosince Jamaica in 1998, the islanders can take heart from the fact that they saved the best for last at the tail-end of their qualifying campaign.
Up and down throughout a consistently inconsistent final round of qualifying in North, Central America and the Caribbean, Leo Beenhakker'sarrival as coach in April 2005 seemed to settle a few nerves and see amore organised and disciplined side emerge than under former boss Bertille St Clair.
"We are a new T&T since he arrived," young striker Scott Sealy remarked after the arrival of the well-travelled, ultra-experienced Dutch trainer."
We play a different way now, more disciplined, more organised."
Beenhakker's tactics surely paid off for the tiny dual-island nation and its football-mad populace. After a crucial win over already eliminated Panama on Saturday 8 October, all the Soca Warriors needed was a win midweek to see them into fourth place and seal up the all-important play-off date with the fifth finisher from Asia. A simple enough task, but there was only one problem: they would be facing CONCACAF powers and historic giants Mexico.
Though the already-qualified Mexicans fielded a weaker-than-usual side, it was a still a large hill to climb – especially with Guatemala pushing T&Tfor that final place. Knowing only victory would ensure them the play-off berth, it looked like lights out when Jaime Lozano chipped home extravagantly to give Mexico the lead on 38 minutes.
And when Stern John saw his spot-kick saved, the fans in the packed Hasely Crawford stadium fell suddenly silent. Surely all in the ground could remember back to 1989, when in that very stadium and needing only a draw against the United Sates to qualify for Italy 1990, it all went so horribly wrong on the final day of qualifying.
But John, who remembers watching that game as a boy in 1989, would have none of it. Making amends for his earlier wasted chance from the spot, he scored a magnificent brace to see the islanders through. With celebrations going on in Port of Spain well into the night, Beenhakker and the boys will need to gather themselves soon and prepare for the two-legged play-off with Bahrain.
"The manner in which we fought during the whole game to turn the result around was amazing," the 63-year-old Beenhakker told a Mexican radio station on Thursday. "It was an historic win which has left the doors open for this little country to go to the World Cup."
The first leg will take place on 12 November in Port of Spain and the second four days later in Bahrain.