Trinidad and Tobago's senior men's footballers are the masters of their own destiny. They meet Cuba from six p.m. today in a Group 8 Caribbean Cup semifinal showdown at the Dwight Yorke Stadium, in Tobago.
The teams jointly head the group with four points going into today's final round of matches. St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) are third on two points. The Cubans lead the standings via a superior goal-difference.
Beat Cuba, and the Soca Warriors are through to next month's Caribbean Cup Finals. Lose, and they advance only if competitive but bottom-placed Suriname win the four p.m. opener against SVG or the teams draw.
The top two teams at the end of the series will qualify for next month's Finals in Antigua and Barbuda.
"We know it's not going to be easy. It is going to take a whole-hearted performance," T&T playmaker Densill Theobald said of the Cuba match, after standing out against Suriname.
The Soca Warriors improved in all areas, particularly midfield where they smothered their opponents, on the way to a 3-0 triumph over Suriname on Friday night at the Yorke Stadium. T&T began the tournament with a disappointing 1-1 draw with SVG.
"We felt we needed to freshen up the team," T&T head coach Hutson Charles said, after making five changes to the starting line-up, dropping Devorn Jorsling, Kevon Carter, Ataullah Guerra, Clyde Leon and Curtis Gonzales.
Charles' reshuffle led to a big improvement, as compared to the opening 1-1 draw with SVG on the opening night.
Central defender Seon Power was solid once again, while Theobald bossed the midfield, prompting technical director Anton Corneal to say it was the best match he had seen "Bleeder" play. Keeper Jan Michael Williams handled a few shots from range, and the new boys, Richard Roy, Keyon Edwards, Hasim Arcia, Kern Cupid and Aubrey David did what was required of them. Overall, the Soca Warriors looked a solid football team.
A powerful downward header by inspirational defender Power onto Hughton Hector's free-kick put the Soca Warriors ahead of Suriname in the 35th minute.
"I lived a year and played for Tobago United," Suriname captain and goalkeeper Ronnie Aloema told ball boys. "Here is my second home."
Aloema later extended some charitable love to Tobago, when giving Roy, aka "Shaka", an easy second goal in the 50th minute. The Suriname keeper did well to initially stop Hector's "too hot" shot. But he fumbled and dropped the ball at the feet of Roy, who netted a low shot from close up.
Guyana-born defender David also scored on his T&T senior team debut. In the 88th minute, he guided a loose ball to the far corner, after Edwards' attack seemed to have broken down.
In between the goals, Edwards did everything right.
Though Suriname looked likely to concede a few more goals late on, T&T head coach Hutson Charles opted to keep what he already had by making defensive rather than attacking changes, as some of his starters grew tired.
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: 1. Jan-Michael Williams (capt); 4. Kern Cupid, 19. Carlyle Mitchell (6. Kareem Moses 60), 20. Seon Power, 8. Aubrey David; 18. Densill Theobald, 3. Joevin Jones; 14. Hashim Arcia (10. Ataullah Guerra 72), 16. Keyon Edwards, 7. Hughton Hector; 13. Richard Roy. Unused subs: 21. Marvin Phillip, 2. Clyde Leon, 9. Devorn Jorsling, 11. Kevon Carter, 12. Curtis Gonzales. Coach: Hutson Charles. Assistant coach: Derek King
SURINAME: 1. Ronny Aloema (capt); 15. Naldo Kwasie, 8. Giovanni Alleyne, 13. Joel Baja, 5. Guno Kwasie; 6. Stefan Baneti (2. Jurmen Vallei 62), 16. Romano Stekkel; 17. Wilfried Galimo (12. Iwaan Pinas 80), 10. Emilio Limon, 7. Giovanni Waal (11. Giovanni Drenthe 66); 9. Stefano Rijssel. Unused subs: 22. Obrendo Huiswoud, 3. Furgill Ong A Fat, 4.Jetro Fer, 14. Evani Esperance. Coach: Eugene Verwey
CUBA 1 (Roberto Linares 50th), SVG 1 (Cornelius Stewart 7th)
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO 3 (Seon Power 35th, Richard Roy 50th, Aubrey David 88th), SURINAME 0
GRENADA 2 (Kithson Bain 46th, Clive Murray 81st), GUYANA 1 (Daniel Wilson 48th)
FRENCH GUIANA 1 (Gary Pigrée), HAITI 0