By ZAID MOHAMMED
COACH of the Soca Warriors Dennis Lawrence has admitted that it will be a long and hard road ahead if Trinidad and Tobago are to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup which will be staged in Qatar.
The almost impossible task for the local footballers was made evident earlier when a new format for the CONCACAF qualifiers was announced on Wednesday which clearly favored the top six-ranked teams in the region as of September 2020.
T&T are currently ranked tenth in the region and were recenlyt knocked out of the Gold Cup tournament after two defeats and a draw in the preliminary group stage including a 6-0 drubbing by hosts USA.
“Based on the facts and the information presented, if you are actually in the top six ranked CONCACAF teams on the FIFA rankings at this moment, you’ll probably be thinking you’re in a favorable position and all you’ve got to do is protect your status until June 2020.
“And well, if you aren’t then it means it is a lot more difficult in terms of the Road to Qatar 2022 and you’ve got a lot of work to do to try and get into the top six and if not, then battle it out for a chance to have a go at the fourth spot,” Lawrence told TTFA Media.
“At the end of the day it’s what has been set out by CONCACAF and whether you agree with it or not you have to face it,” said former national defender.
“It is difficult more than before for the teams ranked seven to 35 and favorable for the top six ranked teams and we just have to see how it plays out. What it means now, and not that it wasn’t important before, it shows how hugely important it for us to do well in every game that we play between now and June in the FIFA windows. Every game is like a final now to get into the Hex. If we want to improve on our rankings, we have to get results,” he said.
“There is clarity now in that what we have to do is try and improve our results and the work has to be very intense from now,” Lawrence said.
The first part of the CONCACAF qualifiers, according to a Hexagonal format, will be contested between the top six ranked Concacaf Member Associations based on the FIFA Ranking published after the FIFA window of June 2020.
After home-and-away round-robin play during the FIFA Match windows of September, October and November of 2020 and March and September of 2021, the top three teams will qualify directly to the Qatar World Cup.
The restructured competition will be composed of two parts, which will take place simultaneously during the FIFA-match windows in 2020 and 2021.
The second part of the qualifiers, played across a Group Stage and knockout phase, will involve the CONCACAF Member Associations ranked seven and 35 according to the FIFA Ranking published after the FIFA window of June 2020.
For the group stage, these 29 participating CONCACAF Member Associations will be divided into eight groups (five groups of four teams and three groups of three teams).
After home-and-away round-robin play during the FIFA Match windows of September, October and November of 2020, the first-place finishers in each of the eight groups will qualify for the knock-out stage.
The quarter finals, semifinals and final matches of the knock-out phase will all be played in a home-and-away direct elimination format, during the FIFA Match windows of March, June and September 2021.
The winner of the knockout phase will face the fourth-place finisher of the Hexagonal group to determine the CONCACAF representative in the FIFA intercontinental play-off. The home-and-away play-off matches between the two CONCACAF representatives for the fourth spot will take place during the FIFA Match Window of October 2021.
Currently the top six CONCACAF ranked teams on the FIFA world rankings are Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras and El Salvador in that order, followed by Panama, Canada, Curacao, Trinidad and Tobago, and Haiti.
The new rankings following the CONCACAF Gold Cup will be released shortly.