Trinidad and Tobago’s Senior Men will play their penultimate warm-up international before the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup when they face off with Japan at the Toyota Stadium in Aichi from 7:30pm, 6:30am TT Time on Wednesday.
Under the guidance of head coach Dennis Lawrence and captain Khaleem Hyland, T&T will face a stern test from the 26th ranked team which is coming off a 1-0 win over Bolivia in March. Last year the hosts had a three-match winning run, defeating Panama and Costa Rica 3-0 before stopping Uruguay 4-3 in the Kirin Challenge Cup.
Both teams trained at the Toyota Stadium on Tuesday evening before scores of Japanese journalists, some 156 turning up for the pre-game press conferences and practice sessions of both teams. Japan Football Association officials said 47,000 tickets were presold for the match which Hyland will enter on his 30th birthday for his 83rd international appearance.
“We are expecting it will be a very, very stern test for us because we have full respect for Japan. We are fully aware of how good this Japan team can be and the quality that they got,” Lawrence said at the press conference.
“We are here in preparation for the Gold Cup and will use the opportunity to get something out of it to take into our first game against Panama on the 18th.”
Lawrence was asked by reporters to compare the current team to the one that qualified for the 2006 World Cup in Germany when he played.
“I think the Soca Warriors then, we had a lot of players playing in Europe so we were a different type of team then built around our strengths of that determined group not wanting to lose games. We had the experience of being in Europe.
“What I’ve tried to do over the time since I took over I’ve just tried to see if we can keep more a little more possession of the ball and become a more possession based football team that will allow us to stay in games a lot longer. We still have the same talent. We will always have skillful quick players that would allow us to be an exciting group. We just wanted to try and manage the ball a lot better, to be a bit more composed in gamed home and away and I think we’ve done that in the last two years. Now we just need to be a bit more creative in front of goal which we hope to display tomorrow but the idea is try and become a possession based team,” he said.
The former Swansea City player went on to express his thoughts of the Japan team and how he intends to take them on in the encounter which precedes a match against Canada in Los Angeles on June 10th.
“Number one individually they are technically very good players. I think they are a very aggressive group and stye work together as a unit which is very important and makes them very, very difficult to compete against . Then you have the individual qualities of your Kagawa’s and Okazaki’s and those that played in the Premier League.
“Our expectations are to go in and compete. We need to withstand the aggressiveness of the Japanese team. They are on the front foot and they want to be in your faces so we need to match that and we need to now be brave and show our quality by keeping possession of the ball when the pressure is on. Then at the same time we need to maintain a very good defensive structure which is important,” Lawrence added.
US-based trio Mekeil Williams, Neveal Hackshaw and Alvin Jones completed the 19-man squad which assembled in Aichi with their arrival on Monday night and all trained with the squad on Tuesday .
“This is probably the most important match for us ahead of the Gold Cup. We have to make the progress little by little working on certain tactical aspects of the game that we need to implement going into our first game,” Us-based midfielder Kevan George told TTFA Media. “They will be a very strong opponent so I believe this game for us will be very important. While we want to win every game, we need to think about the bigger picture and sharpen up on our game going into the first match against Panama.
“The main thing for me is to focus mentally, physically and even emotionally. The level of competition against all the opponents will be very high. At any given moment anyone can be called up so everyone needs to be sharp and prepared for it,” George added.
Both teams met in the 2006 Kirin Challenge Cup in Tokyo with the hosts coming away 2-0 winners in June of that year.
There will be a live radio broadcast of the match on I95.5FM.