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World Cup 2006 profile

Trinidad & Tobago's men are already national heroes

Posted: Friday February 17, 2006 11:41AM; Updated: Monday February 20, 2006 1:21PM
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Stern John (top) and longshot Trinidad can play without any pressure on them, and could surprise someone with their potent attack.
Stern John (top) and longshot Trinidad can play without any pressure on them, and could surprise someone with their potent attack.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

By Ricardo Setyon, SI.com

Through late April, SI.com will profile two World Cup teams a week. We continue with Trinidad and Tobago. Click here for the full archive.

FIFA world ranking: No. 50.

How they qualified for Germany: Finished in fourth place in CONCACAF with a 4-1-5 record; won a two-leg playoff against Asia's third-place Group B team, Bahrain.

Previous World Cups: None.

Manager: Leo Beenhakker, second year with team.

Key players

At age 34, Trinidad's biggest star gets the prize of his entire career: Dwight Yorke will finally play in a World Cup. A veteran of three English Premiership clubs, the striker is still in good physical shape at his current club, Australia's Sydney FC. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson once called Yorke a "natural killer." He's also his country's hero and its leader on the pitch.

Trinidad's other main forward, Stern John, is playing at his peak in England's second division for Coventry City. "Bravo" is also an MLS veteran and perhaps Trinidad's best player. He's dangerous in the penalty box, scoring 12 goals in World Cup qualifying, and may be the heir to Yorke's throne.

Russell Latapy is Trinidad's elder statesman at 37. A former star in Portugal's Superliga, he currently plies his trade for Scotland's Falkirk. He's still a player to watch, mostly because he's a player/coach. He's only on the national team because Yorke insisted Beenhakker include him. Even so, he's an influential leader and will be the only player/coach in Germany.

What to watch for

With the longest odds to win, this is considered the weakest team at the World Cup. But don't tell the 1.3 million Trinidadians that -- Beenhakker is a national hero for taking the Soca Warriors to their first big show. A coaching veteran who has made stops in Spain, Mexico, Turkey, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands, he's known for his soft style and good communication skills with his players.

This team is far from Beenhakker's powerful Ajax of the 1970s or Real Madrid of the '80s, but it's no stranger to scoring goals. Yorke and Latapy in particular offer physical strength, experience and natural talent for finding the net. They are skilled beyond their years might surprise anyone who doesn't take them seriously.

This is a chance for Trinidad to write a golden page in Caribbean soccer history, which means that this team has nothing to lose and should play relaxed football. All the members of this incarnation of the Soca Warriors know that every goal they score will immortalize them forever in their tiny homeland. With that on their side -- and with a wise and seasoned coach -- they might be a huge surprise.

Group: B (England, Paraguay, Sweden).

Key match in group stage: June 10 vs. Sweden. The Soca Warriors will have a rough ride through a harsh group, but they're looking to make waves early. Their hope is to draw the Swedes, then face England without any pressure and go for the gold against Paraguay, trying to reap a victory there. Four points is the goal, which they figure should be enough to advance -- and shock and awe everyone.

Oddsmakers' line: 750-1.

Projected Starting Lineup
Pos. Player Club team
G Shaka Hislop West Ham United (England)
D Ian Gray CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh (Trinidad)
D Marvin Andrews Rangers (Scotland)
D Avery John New England Revolution (MLS)
D Dennis Lawrence Wrexham (England)
M Christopher Birchall Port Vale (England)
M Densill Theobold Falkirk (Scotland)
M Russell Latapy Falkirk (Scotland)
F Carlos Edwards Wrexham (England)
F Dwight Yorke Sydney FC (Australia)
F Stern John Coventry City (England)