Disappointment was the word repeated time and again from the lips of the TT players, following Friday night’s 0-1 loss to Haiti in their one-off qualifier for the Copa America Centenario, the Newsday reported on Sunday.
An 85th-minute item by Haitian striker Kervens Belfort decided the match at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium in Panama City, Panama.
Speaking after the game, T&T head coach Stephen Hart refused to blame the players directly.
“The responsibility lies with me,” he said outside the team dressing room. “Eighty percent of what I did in training was the offensive part, trying to get our possession and offense working properly, and tonight we lacked that sort of conviction– we didn’t penetrate, we didn’t move the ball fast enough.” Trinidad and Tobago, missing several players— some through injury, others, like skipper Kenwyne Jones, through unavailability– never played at the level they showed in the CONCACAF Gold Cup last year and in other matches against quality opponents including Guatemala and the United States.
“To lose on a goal of that nature is very bitter to swallow,” Hart said. “We let down the country tonight.”
Many of the T&T players admitted the goal that Haiti scored could have been avoided.
Asked for comment, defensive midfielder Andre Boucaud said the players were hurting because they felt they did not play at their best on Friday.
Commenting on the team effort, Boucaud hinted that perhaps they might have lacked the intensity required in the face of an opponent they would normally have overcome.
“You can’t turn back time and what’s done is gone; it’s very painful, trust me. But we have to look forward to March and the two St Vincent games (World Cup qualifiers) and try to focus on getting good results there,” Commenting on the match itself, Boucaud said their opponents’ tactics were meant to frustrate TT.
“Haiti made it difficult for us, they kicked a lot of long balls. But they got a goal. Some people would say lucky, some would say confusion in the box, but they got that goal now they’re through.” Hart also suggested the TT players did not give enough of themselves and play with the intensity required.
“They (the TT players) have to understand that every game, regardless of your opponent, if you don’t do what you are supposed to do in terms of taking charge of the game and managing the game and taking care of the ball, and you let the other team begin to get some confidence, anything can happen, especially if you don’t score when you get your opportunities.”