Trinidad and Tobago's scratchy advancement to the 2012 Caribbean Cup semi-finals is a sign that the "Soca Warriors" will struggle to reach the final.
Former San Juan Jabloteh coach Terry Fenwick and Central FC managing director Brent Sancho both feel T&T will be unable to reach the tournament decider based on their current showing in the tournament. The Soca Warriors scraped through Group A qualifying with a 0-0 draw with Haiti, a 2-0 loss to hosts Antigua and Barbuda, and finally a 2-1 triumph over Dominican Republic.
But T&T needed a Haiti victory to take them into the next round.
To Fenwick, T&T's advancement to the semis—and simultaneously the Gold Cup—is a positive sign, after the national team failed to reach this far in the past two attempts, both times being put out by Grenada.
"It's got to be seen as a step forward," the former Queen's Park Rangers player played told the Express yesterday, "because we've qualified for a tournament. But we're relying on other people (Haiti) doing it, and when you analyse the teams we're talking about, we should be light years ahead (of the other teams).
"But the fact of the matter is most of these countries have now had several years of development, so they're now churning out better performances on a consistent basis. We've got to be consistent."
The experienced football coach described T&T's current standing in the region as "very weak and poor", particularly after they were manhandled by Antigua, who currently occupy 121st spot in the FIFA rankings, 42 places lower than T&T (79th).
"When we're scraping through a tournament as we've just done, relying on people to do the job for us, it's got to be of concern," he stated. "Football has evolved. I think we're starting from scratch at rock bottom. Qualifying is a good thing. But we can't think we've achieved something and sit back and enjoy it. When we get to that next tournament, we don't want to be embarrassed."
Sancho is also happy to see T&T reach the Gold Cup, but says that cannot "paper over the cracks" in T&T football.
"From what I've seen with the one or two snippets, it has been quite an open tournament," said Sancho. "It is not any longer a Jamaica-Trinidad guaranteed final.
"It is now turning to where you see countries like Dominican Republic, French Guyana now starting to re-emerge, Martinique, so it's not as certain as it was. Our performance doesn't suggest we can go forward. I hope we do well, but there's a lot of work to do."
The World Cup 2006 defender is hoping to see T&T play more attacking football in the semi-finals, and scoring more goals. They have only hit the net twice in their three matches. He also urged the players to take more responsibility for the football on the field.
"I would hope they would say to themselves 'we have a lot to do'. You can sit and blame the administration all you want, and they do have to take a lot of the blame for the downward spiral, but the players have to take some blame as well.
"They have not come to terms with the fact that they can't just show up and do well. The performances have not been up to scratch and the general play of the teams has not been good. You can't blame the administration for that."
Fenwick is calling for a greater emphasis on players, who are the "main people" surrounding the sport, if T&T's football is to improve. He said new T&T Football Federation (TTFF) president Raymond Tim Kee "has a lot on his hands".
"The players have always (been) on the bottom of the pile in priority. They are the main people. The footballers around the world are the ones that get the (kudos)… the coaches need to be delivering good information to the players," Fenwick stressed.
"I think Raymond Tim Kee has got off to a good start because he's trying to correct all the issues with financial and administration; I think that's a good start. Technically, we really need a good group of players, to pick the right players and best players."