It was the kind of performance that signalled Barbados football is on the rise and senior national head coach Russell Latapy has given the Bajan Tridents a passing grade in all departments against Panama despite last night’s 1-0 defeat.
Barbados led by captain Rashad Jules featured against Panama in their opening Group D match of the CONCACAF Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 2022.
Speaking with local media during a Zoom meeting held this morning from the Dominican Republic where the matches are being played, Latapy said he felt extremely proud of the performance.
“I am extremely proud of all the players and what we achieved last night. By no means we thought that this was going to be a game that we were just going to walk into and it is going to be easy.
“My boys had two weeks to prepare under difficult circumstances. I think what we did last night showed the region and the world by extension that we could compete at this level. The boys fought as hard as they could and gave us everything.
“I think with a bit of luck maybe we could have gotten a goal or two. We played against a very good team which is one of the leading teams in the region who went to the last World Cup,” Latapy said.
He added: “So, again, I am really proud of the boys and what they achieved. They have given everything. Their discipline has been spot on, their professionalism has been spot on, and I think we are at a good place and we could build from there.”
After excellent work at the back from Barbados, Panama managed to squeeze in a late goal compliments substitute Jair Catuy in the 82nd minute.
Giving his take on where the Tridents fell during the match, Latapy revealed tiredness and a lack of concentration allowed Panama to capitalise and score the one goal.
He explained that the reality is Panama were always going to be tough to beat. But in his opinion, the Bajan lads got through the game with flying colours.
“The boys had to work extremely hard to keep it at zero and I thought that in the last 15 minutes or so we got tired which is obvious.
When you don’t have the ball as much as you want to and the other team has it more you really have to work to get it back. To keep your defensive shape and not let them play in between and behind you.
“Obviously at half time, we were asking for a bit more composure on the ball. See if we can pass it a little better. But the reality at this level of football you have to earn the right to play. Panama is playing at a really high intensity and we are trying to match them.
“But again, I go back to saying I admire and give credit to the players. The courage they showed in playing against a very good team. The fight and the spirit they showed and I think that all of Barbados should be proud of these boys in what they have achieved in a short space of time,” the coach explained.
Focusing ahead to their upcoming second group D FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Anguilla, Latapy expressed confidence that his players have what it takes to deliver.
The “little magician” as he is called, Latapy believes that playing with the football is an attractive way to play. Once the Tridents can master the art of playing that type of football, Latapy said it would bring about positive results.
He also acknowledged it was a process and they were working on getting the players to buy into that philosophy.
“The tables are turned a bit whereby we are the favourites against Anguilla. Now I think this is a game we can go and try to impose the way that we want to play football on Anguilla and that is what we are going to try to do,” the coach said.
“Last night was an excellent exercise in showing the players what is required, the intensity that we need to play at, the courage and commitment that we need to have. I would give them a pass in every department.”
Revealing that they were a couple of niggling injuries before the start of last night’s match against Panama, Latapy explained that the medical department has been hard at work correcting some of them.
Unable to say whether there will be any changes to the team for the next match against Anguilla, Latapy noted that all they were asking of their players was to give of their best.
The Tridents had a mere two weeks preparation inclusive of an international friendly against Turks and Caicos before the match against Panama.
As to what it will take for the Bajan Tridents to grab those three crucial points against Anguilla, Latapy said: “The obvious one is sticking the ball in the back of the nets. But what I would say is it comes back to us trying to impose the way we want to play. I think that is a lot more realistic against Anguilla because they obviously don’t have the quality as Panama.
“We are trying to get the ball and pass it down to the back and create chances. I think the possibility of that against Anguilla is completely different to the situation against Panama. So, in our vision for that game, we want to get the ball long. Hopefully, we could pass it through the midfield, get it into the attacking third and allow our creative players to express themselves and create chances for us and put the ball back in the net.”