Both head men's coach Glenn "Fido" Francis and manager Kirth Davis realistically see the Trinidad and Tobago senior men's national hockey team finishing third when they fly out in two batches today and tomorrow for the Second Round of the FIH World Hockey League competition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from February 27-March 5.
Even that will be a tough ask, both officials recognise in a group that includes world ranked 10th and 12th teams in Argentina and South Africa respectively and with Chile, arch rivals USA and hosts Brazil, all ranked above the 34th-placed Trinidad and Tobago squad. The top two teams will advance to the next round of the competition.
"Realistically, a top three finish will be a big accomplishment, and we are going there to gain some respect and experience playing some higher ranked teams," Francis said. adding that since they won the first leg hosted here three months ago, they haven't been able to get practice matches against any international competition.
"As with any sport, you always go to win, but we expect realistically at least a third place finish because we are playing against some of the top teams at this level in Argentina."
But Davis and Francis had differing opinions on the effect the absence of four key players, including the inspirational and experienced Kwandwane Browne (out because of commitments to his Canterbury club in England), Kiel Murray, Alan Henderson and Andrew Vieira will have on the side.
"We are missing one or two key players which will make it a bit tougher, you know like Kwandwayne, who gives a lot to a team in terms of inspiration, experience and leadership, but on the other hand the team beat Chile, a higher ranked team, right here and showed they can get the job done," said Francis.
"I don't think it will affect the team," said Davis. "As you know, the first round, we didn't use any of our international players and we won. The team has learnt to play without him (Browne), and while obviously, he can make a difference in a positive way to any team, this team has shown they can perform without international-based players and get the results."
Francis and Davis said this will be the time for some younger players to step up and build around the experienced players like skipper Darren Cowie, Mikell "Energy God" Pierre and Dwain Quan Chan
"To be honest, it is more than a development outing for us as we will be trying to push the bar a little bit and get better because we will be coming up against Argentina in World Cup qualifiers later this year and we are really looking to blood some of the younger guys like Joel Bodkin, Shane Legerton and Nicholas Grant as we prepare for the Pan Am Cup in August," Francis said.