Wednesday, May 03, 2006

World Cup Spotlight: Trinidad and Tobago

As I've mentioned here before, I'm partial to underdog teams. Some people can tell you about the exact moment that they knew they were in love; I can tell you when soccer swept me off my feet. In their 2002 World Cup debut, Senegal opened the tournament with a 0-1 upset of defending champions France and from that moment on I was a lost cause: head-over-heels, utterly, madly, passionately in love, via Bruno Metsu's Lions of Teranga, with football.

I'm still partial to African soccer teams, and I'd love to see another upset from any of them (my Lions, alas, are staying home this year), but I think my underdog pick for the 2006 World Cup is Trinidad and Tobago.

Naturally, there is a touch of hometown pride in the fact that former Timbers defender Brent Sancho plays on the national squad, but it's the fact that the country proclaimed a national holiday to celebrate their qualification that won me over. More familiar to non-Portland-area footie fans might be West Ham keeper Shaka Hislop. All-time leading goal scorer and center forward Stern John is one to watch as well (plus, he has a great name), along with captain Dwight Yorke, who came out of retirement to lead his country's team to qualifying victory. Led by experienced Dutch manager Leo Beenhakker, the Soca Warriors insist that they are serious about their World Cup campaign and intend to make their mark on the tournament. They'll need to face England, Sweden, and Portugal in Group B before they can do so. If Senegal can send France home from the first round, perhaps they will go farther than we think.

"Small Country, Big Passion" says their exuberant website . . . and says it all.
(music at that link)

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