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T&T tackles Argentina giants
Uphold the game plan, keep calm, persevere and defend as a unit. Those factors might be the basis of tonight’s fixture as instructed by T&T’s senior men’s national team head coach Stephen Hart, who will marshall the Soca Warriors against preparing World Cup title challenger, Argentina in a friendly international at the Estadio Monumental Vespucio Liberti, Buenos Aires. Kick-off is at 6.30 pm and its going to be live on GISL (Channel 4). The venue is expected to seat over 50,000 fans, just under its maximum capacity, an experience generally alien to several of T&T’s local-based and some foreign-based players, but essential as this country continues to rebuild ahead of this year’s CFU Caribbean Cup and subsequent 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
T&T will be led on the field by Kenwyne Jones, who has scored four goals in six international matches and supported by several regulars in Kevin Molino and Khaleem Hyland. T&T’s most pivotal players tonight, however, will surely be stacked in backline players, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Sheldon Bateau, Carlyle Mitchell, and brothers Justin and Gavin Hoyte, the latter of whom may receive his first cap. Tonight’s clash is T&T’s first for the year, but between the last string of fixtures running from last September to November, T&T played five, securing three wins (Jamaica twice and Saudi Arabia) and two draws (UAE and New Zealand). Meanwhile, Argentina, which will open its account at the World Cup on June 15 against Bosnia and Herzegovina, has not lost a match at home since 2011 and is the heavy favourite to win tonight’s encounter. Argentina is in fact one of the most popular teams to go on to win the World Cup.
With a star-studded squad, La Albiceleste is expected to field the likes of three-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, Champions League winner Angel Di Maria, and Machester City stand-outs Pablo Zabaleta, Martín Demichelis and Sergio Aguero and coach Alejandro Sabella will presumably use the fixture to build attacking momentum ahead of its quest for a third World Cup title. However, due to the nature of the timing of the fixture on the heels of the World Cup, Argentina may opt to take a less hasty approach in order to avoid any untimely injuries. Despite the monumental task ahead, by all accounts, T&T players have settled comfortably with Hart conducting two training sessions at the San Lorenzo training pitch. Speaking ahead of the clash, Hart said the players were aware of the magnitude of their opposition and are now prepared to give their best.
“These boys live for games like these and whether we can hold it together will be certain before our eyes once the match gets going. We do not expect anything but a strong encounter and we’ll give it our best to stay in the match for as long as possible,” said Hart. “We would have had two sessions here in Argentina going into the game and the players all appear to be settled in and ready. There will always be some nerves especially among the younger ones and then it’s no secret that we are coming up against one of the top sides in the world in their own backyard,” he added. The match will be aired in approximately 92 countries. For T&T, tonight’s fixture will be followed by a clash against Iran, another country preparing for the World Cup, in Sao Paolo, Brazil, on Saturday.
T&T: Jan-Michael Williams, Marvin Phillip; Justin Hoyte, Gavin Hoyte, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Curtis Gonzales, Carlyle Mitchell, Sheldon Bateau, Yohance Marshall; Khaleem Hyland, Ataullah Guerra, Andre Boucaud, Kevan George, Lester Peltier, Joevin Jones, Densill Theobald, Marcus Joseph, Kevin Molino; Rundell Winchester, Willis Plaza, Trevin Caesar, Kenwyne Jones.
Argentina: Sergio Romero, Mariano Andújar, Agustín Orion; Pablo Zabaleta, Ezequiel Garay, Marcos Rojo, Martín Demichelis, Hugo Campagnaro, Federico Fernández, José María Basanta; Fernando Gago, Javier Mascherano, Ángel Di María, Maxi Rodríguez, Lucas Biglia, Enzo Pérez, Augusto Fernández, Ricky Álvarez; Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín, Rodrigo Palacio, Ezequiel Lavezzi