Trinidad and Tobago: Reliving their first World Cup experience

Taken from Santa Banta

They might not have set the stage alight on their debut experience at a World Cup – but they gave a good account of themselves in a competition that they weren’t even expected to reach.

Trinidad and Tobago did remarkably well even to progress from the qualifying campaign. With one round of matches to go in qualifying, Trinidad had secured just one single point. They were doomed, right?

Well, not quite. In came Dutchman Leo Beenhakker, and old veterans Dwight Yorke, the island’s most famous player, and attacking midfield maestro Russell Latapy. Suddenly, the situation changed and the team clinched fourth spot, before going onto beat Bahrain 2-1 on aggregate via a playoff.

This meant that Trinidad had qualified for their first ever World Cup. And they also became the smallest island ever to participate in a World Cup. Quite some achievements. Delirium for the Trinidad supporters, as they were already booking their tickets to Germany.

Anyway, that is how they got there. But now to how the national side, with a population of roughly around one million people, actually did in the prestigious tournament. By any country’s standards, the team were placed in a very tough group.

England, Sweden and Paraguay were the teams that Trinidad and Tobago would come up against. All very able, talented sides. So, as you can expect, many were already writing the small nation off before they even kicked a ball. But, I suppose, that was an advantage as such as they could play with freedom, and no real sort of heavy pressure.

First up? Sweden. The game, however, didn’t get off to the kind of start Trinidad & Tobago were looking for as defender Avery John received two bookings, and was sent off leaving World Cup debutants, Trinidad, to fight the second half with ten men.

It was a courageous performance from Leo Beenhakker’s men, and a platform in which to build on for the next match, which was England.

Nothing was expected from the England match, and nothing was achieved. A sense of pride, maybe, but a 2-0 defeat was inevitable. I remember the English playing with real style and they were ruthless. So far, it was one point out of a possible six for Trinidad and Tobago.

The last match of the group stage, was Paraguay. A classy South American side that would eventually go onto finish 3rd in Group B. Luck was against Trinidad from the beginning, though, as Brent Sancho netted an own goal midway through the first half.

They never recovered, and despite having not tasted victory in their World Cup journey – the team certainly benefited from the experience and developed as a country. The whole island supported the side, and the travelling fans were partying the whole way through.

The old guards, such as Yorke – who filled in as a central midfielder – were terrific in their attitude and discipline while players such as Carlos Edwards – now at Ipswich Town – had impressive tournaments and took a lot away from the competition.

Trinidad and Tobago may have struggled with qualifying for major tournaments since, but at least the nation can look back on their debut at a World Cup in 2006 and be proud. They may have been the smallest ever nation to feature in a World Cup, but they bowed out having made a large impression.

Written by Nathan Carr
Follow me on Twitter @caribbeanftbl
Check out his excellent site, The Home of Caribbean Football

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