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Canada was the favorite in the Copa America qualifier, but Trinidad and Tobago is no stranger to surprises | CBC Sports

The numbers are in favor of the Canadian men in Saturday’s high-risk Copa America qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago in Frisco, Texas.

Canada ranks 50th in the world, compared to 96th for Trinidad. And the Canadians’ previous record against Trinidad is a confident 7-2-2.

But the Soca Warriors have broken Canadian soccer hearts before.

On September 3, 2000, in front of a sun-drenched crowd at Queen’s Park Oval in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad defeated Canada 4-0, ending its bid to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. Current Trinidad coach Angus Eve put the final nail in the Canadians’ coffin when he scored in the 90th minute to complete the defeat.

Canada had a tough time in the penultimate round of CONCACAF qualifying, being placed in a group with Mexico, Panama and Trinidad. And Canada had its back against the wall heading into the game in Port-of-Spain, having started the round with a 2-0 loss to Trinidad in Edmonton, a 0-0 draw in Panama and a 2-0 loss in Mexico City had opened.

The elimination from World Cup qualifying, with two games to go, came just six months after coach Holger Osieck’s team shocked the football world by winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The game made headlines in Trinidad and fans filled the stadium hours in advance. It was both a cultural and sporting event.

24 years later, Trinidad midfielder Andre Rampersad hopes to spark even more celebration in his homeland.

“If we get through this game on Saturday it will be very special for Trinidad and Tobago football and will put Trinidad and Tobago on the map,” he said.

“Boys are confident”

Rampersad, captain of the CPL’s Halifax Wanderers, says the 2-1 win over the USA in November was a “big confidence boost” for his team.

“Going into this game against Canada, of course we know now that we can actually beat a big team. So yeah, that will definitely help us.”

“Everyone is ready to go. Everyone is excited,” he added. “I think the guys are confident.”

The Soca Warriors are led by midfielder Levi Garcia, who plays for AEK Athens in Greece.

“He’s a great leader,” Rampersad said.

He pointed to Garcia’s performance in the 6-0 loss to the United States in Charlotte in the CONCACAF Gold Cup last July.

“Even though we were down and getting beaten up, he still did his best,” Rampersad said. “And that’s all you can ask of a great leader. He definitely showed that through his example.”

VIEW | Canada loses to Jamaica in the Nations League:

Jamaica eliminated Canada from the Concacaf Nations League in the quarterfinals

Three away goals from Jamaica, including a penalty from Bobby De Cordova-Reid, made the difference as Canada lost 3-2 in Toronto and failed to advance in the Concacaf Nations League.

Gacia also makes those around him shine. He laid the foundation for Rampersad’s only goal for the national team to date, sending in a low cross that Rampersad fired home with a clever backheel in the 4-1 loss to Jamaica that preceded the US Gold Cup loss .

Canada and Trinidad advanced to play-in on Saturday after losing the CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinals to Jamaica and the United States, respectively.

The Canadiens were upset by the Reggae Boyz on away goals in November after blowing a 3-1 lead and ending the home-and-away series 4-4. Trinidad was beaten 4-2 by the USA, although the team won the second leg on home soil.

Qualification crucial for Canadians

Winning the Copa is seen as crucial for Canada, a valuable opportunity to compete against elite teams as the country begins its preparations for the 2026 World Cup. Additionally, Mexico and the United States, the 2026 co-hosts, already qualified as Nations League quarterfinal winners, as did No. 44 Panama.

No. 15 Mexico and 13th-ranked USA meet in the Nations League final on Sunday in Arlington, Texas.

The Canada-Trinidad winners land in Group A of this summer’s Copa America alongside leaders Argentina, No. 33 Peru and No. 42 Chile. No. 54 Costa Rica will face No. 78 Honduras on Saturday, also in Frisco, to decide the sixth visiting CONCACAF team in the 16-team field.

Saturday’s game also has consequences for interim coach Mauro Biello, who is a candidate for the permanent position as John Herdman’s successor as coach. Biello has welcomed many young players into his 23-man squad and says a “cultural reset” is needed for the team.

Canada won 2-0 when they last met Trinidad in August 2012 in Lauderhill, Florida. Canada was ranked 79th at the time, while Trinidad was ranked 80th.

The Soca Warriors have two friendlies against Jamaica, losing 1-0 on March 1 before playing to a goalless draw two days later.

Rampersad will be joined in the Trinidad squad by CPL newcomer Reon Moore, a striker who signed with Pacific FC earlier this month.

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