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UPCOMING OLYMPIC GAMES

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T&T’s senior men’s team will be looking to turn the result over to their favour when they face off with Panama in an international friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez at 8.30 pm (9.30pm TT time) today.

Back in 2000, when both teams met at the CONCACAF semifinal round of World Cup qualification, T&T were easy 6–0 winners at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, with Dwight Yorke leading the way with a hat-trick.

Since then the two teams have met 11 times with T&T winning five, Panama four and two being drawn. But Panama have won four out of the last six outings, including the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal clash in June and a friendly in Couva in March.

T&T skipper Kenwyne Jones believes T&T are capable of turning around their fortunes as it relates to results with Panama.

“I think the present team has come a long way over the past two years as was evident at the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the last friendly with Mexico. I was part of the team that beat them here in 2005 but history will show that the results didn’t look too good for us since then,” said Jones. “Things are a bit different now, the team is performing at a higher level and we will be looking to reverse the results.”

Panama is in the same group with Costa Rica, Jamaica and Haiti for the CONCACAF semifinal round of World Cup qualification. And from all reports in the press in Panama, the Panamanians have every intention of warming up with a victory over the “Soca Warriors”.

“Of course, we play to win and want to be as strong as we can. The opponents are also preparing for the qualification so both teams will be trying to play a good game and to get a good result before the qualifiers,” Panama head coach Hernan Gomez.

His opposite number, Stephen Hart, will be keen to see how his players respond to playing away from home against a solid Central American opponent.

“The mood is good at the moment. This game is very important because in the two previous games, at home we played them with a largely local squad and then at the Gold Cup, we tied and went to penalties and we lost.

“But the most important thing right now with our games is how we approach the game and how we play. It’s not so much about the opposition but about getting things right within our team structure,” Hart said yesterday, after an early morning training session at the Maracana Stadium.

With Jones and Sheldon Bateau back into the squad, Hart will looking to see how the players adapt to the challenge.

“Those players coming back gives us a different dynamic. Of course we missed out on Cato and Peltier. But with the ones returning, it allows them to reacquaint themselves with what we have been doing and hopefully in the two games everybody will get a run in,”said Hart.

Russian-based defender Bateau said he has already settled back into the team, after missing the draw with Mexico last month and also coming off his long travel from Moscow to Panama City.

“We’ve had some good sessions. The team is coming along pretty well and there is competition for places in the team. I think the team is ready for a good showing tomorrow. Personally I feel good. I’ve been around these players for some time now so it’s just a matter of us working together, continuing to build that chemistry and getting on with the task before us.” Bateau said.

Hart was expected to conduct a one-hour session at the match venue yesterday from 8 pm after a scheduled practice the previous evening had to be put off due to heavy rainfall and lightning. Today’s game is carded to be aired live on Flow Channel 99.

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