National senior men’s football team coach Angus Eve and his players will hope to kick off their 2022 calendar year on a positive note when they tackle host Bolivia at the Estadio Olimpico Patria in Sucre, Bolivia from 5 pm TT time Friday (January 21).
The match, which was initially carded for Santa Cruz in Bolivia, was moved to Sucre, which is some 9,000 feet above sea level and according to reports on the Bolivian Football Federation website 15,000 tickets were made available for sale and were going quickly as it will be the first time that the Bolivian team will be playing in Sucre in 23 years since playing to a goalless draw in a friendly international against Venezuela.
For the Soca Warriors, the match will be their first since a 1-1 draw with Guatemala in their final Concacaf Gold Cup Group B series last July 18 which followed a 2-0 loss to El Salvador on July 14, and a 0-0 draw with the region powerhouse Mexico in their tournament main draw opener four days prior.
It will also be the first match for coach Eve since he was officially appointed as permanent head coach of the men’s team after he kicked off his interim tenure following the sacking of Englishman Terry Fenwick by navigating the Gold Cup preliminary qualifiers, first against Montserrat 6-1, and then a nail-biting 8-7 penalty-kicks win over French Guiana after a 1-1 draw in regulation-time to reach the Gold Cup group stage.
Having been knocked out of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers at the first round under Fenwick, Eve and his players will be using the clash with the South Americans as their first step in preparing for the Concacaf Nation League qualifiers, later this year.
The Bolivians, on the other hand, are preparing for upcoming South American World Cup qualifying matches against Venezuela on January 28, and Chile four days later.
A former national captain and T&T’s record appearances player (118) Eve is expected to have all 20 members of his team which made the trip available for selection following the late withdrawal from the team of USA-based defender Leland Archer.
Eve shared that preparation has gone well and was pleased with the effort of his players at training sessions ahead of today’s match.
“The guys were very enthusiastic. As I said it’s a very young team very vibrant team so the guys wanted to show what they could do. The most difficulty we had in the session really is the ball, getting accustomed to the penalty ball, it’s very lightweight and now that we are even further up in the altitude it’s going to be a little bit of adjustment for the guys,” said Eve, wanting his players to be “brave” against the Bolivians and implement what they did in the training.
T&T defender Radanfah Abu Bakr is also looking forward to the match.
He said, “Playing together, being compact, working together sticking to our game plan, I think that will be very crucial and staying disciplined.”
However, the make-up of the Bolivian squad for the match is shrouded in mystery as two more of its members tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, taking the total number of infected players in the Verde squad to eight.
The two new players were striker Bruno Miranda and goalkeeper Daniel Vaca who were ordered to self-isolate and were expected to undergo new PCR tests within 48 hours, according to a Bolivian Football Federation (FBF) statement.
The news came a day after the FBF said six others were diagnosed with the virus, including midfielder Alexis Ribera and five unnamed players from local club Bolivar.
Head coach Cesar Farias placed Independiente Petrolero’s Emerson Velasquez, Yesit Martinez and William Velasco on standby as potential replacements for the infected players.
Bolivia is currently eighth in the ten-team South American zone standings and remains hopeful of qualifying for their first World Cup since 1994.
The top four teams in the group will earn an automatic place at football’s showpiece tournament in Qatar, to be played in November and December. The fifth-ranked side will advance to an intercontinental playoff.
Adrian Foncette (goalkeeper, Police FC), Alvin Jones (defender, unattached), Hashim Arcia (midfielder, Defence Force FC, Jamal Jack (defender, unattached), Jesse Williams (midfielder, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC), Keston George (defender, unattached), Marvin Phillip (goalkeeper, unattached), Matthew Woo Ling (midfielder, Miami Utd), Mekeil Williams (defender, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC), John-Paul Rochford (unattached), Michel Poon-Angeron (midfielder, unattached), Molik Khan (midfielder, Club Sando), Neveal Hackshaw (midfielder, Indy Eleven), Radanfah Abu Bakr (defender, unattached), Reon Moore (forward, Defence Force FC), Stephon Marcano, Ryan Telfer (unattached), Justin Garcia (defender, Defence Force), Noah Powder (midfielder, Indy Eleven), Ajani Fortune (forward, Atlanta United II)