Dominica’s star footballers say they are ready to bring their A-Game as they take to the battlefield in the qualifying round of the World Cup. The Nature Isle footballers leave Dominica on March 22 to begin their campaign in hopes of booking a spot at Qatar 2022.
And according to Coach Rajesh Latchoo the team is expected to make an impressive showing when they take on the Dominican Republic on March 24.
“This is the best team I have worked with since I became coach. I now have the best players based on their level, their understanding, their movements, and the desire to win. I love the competitive spirit.
“I am sure, based on previous experience with the players, having seen them play in the past, they are more ready than ever,” the Trinidad national tells eMAGE ahead of team practice at the Stockfarm Playing Field.
In Group D of the CONCACAF Qualifiers, Dominica will also play Panama on March 28 and meet Barbados and Anguilla later in the year.
In January, the Dominica Football Association (DFA) announced the men would take time off their jobs and enter dedicated training with support from the Government of Dominica. On Friday, March 12 they reported to camp to intensify training ahead of the games in the Spanish-speaking country.
“We now control what they eat, what time they sleep and how they prepare and this is a crucial part of the preparation. We are now able to fine tune our preparations,” Latchoo explains, adding that players’ fitness, attitude and skills were being assessed to determine their eligibility to travel to the Dominican Republic.
“I have gotten everything from them that they could give me. It is now difficult to choose the players who will make the final team. It is a good headache to have when all the players seem like they could be selected,” Latchoo says.
National Captain and Goal Keeper Glenson Prince says his teammates are charged and eager to take the field to represent their countrymen in the first away game for the national football team since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“The attitude of our players is really commendable. Moving forward I expect us to do very well. We know we will be playing difficult matches against tough opponents but we have been putting in the hard work and I have full confidence that we will go out there and get positive results.
“The public is expecting us to do well and we want to repay their support. Our objective is to win but we want to win in convincing fashion. When we step on the field we are doing so for all Dominicans both here and abroad and will put our best foot forward,” the Portsmouth native declares.
Julian ‘Juju’ Wade, who holds the distinction as the all-time top scorer for the national men’s side, is also confident in the team’s ability to do well in their encounter with the Dominican Republic, whose coach, the Mexican, Jacques Passy has promised an “intelligent game plan” against the Nature Island boys.
Wade who played professional club football for Caledonia AIA of the TT Pro League in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana’s Slingerz FC and for Guadeloupe’s Solidarité Scolaire, says team training has zoned in on skills development.
“We have done a lot of strength work, speed endurance, power and a lot of position specific exercises. Defenders are improving their heading, clearances and passing while the midfielders are concentrating on short passes and the ability to press the ball in the center of the field. The forwards are doing a lot of finishing and the wingers are focused on crossing.
“So everyone is focused on their specific skill in concentrated spaces with a lot of repetition to improve our chances in the games,” Wade explains.
His teammate, Dublanc’s Briel Thomas, the former Trinidad-based player, agrees his teammates have upped their game in past days.
“We are playing quicker. And in the camp setting we are more rested and prepared for play. It has been intense and I believe our strong individual skills will contribute to our group performance,” Thomas predicts.
Euclid ‘Boots’ Bertrand, the 46 year old Dublanc FC Defender who boasts stints with three US-based clubs, brings years of experience to the side. He tells eMAGE he expects the team to make a mark for Dominica.
“We want to really represent Dominica first and ensure the country has a good future in football. I have great expectations for our team. Our training and work will come through and I don’t expect to go to the Dominican Republic and give it up easily,” Bertrand says.
The Dominica team travels to the Dominican Republic with 21 players selected from a squad of 27, with final selection expected over the weekend.
“We need the support of the Dominican people. We select every player in the best faith that they will do the best for Dominica. Every player signed a declaration that they will represent the people of Dominica to the best of their effort and we are holding them to that,” Coach Latchoo says.
Giving support to Latchoo are Assistant Coaches, Collin Bernard and Ellington Sabin. Courtney Challenger is the Goalkeeper Coach, Henrich Anselm, the Team Manager, and Reginald Darroux, the Equipment Manager. The team’s Fitness Trainer is Delroy Watt and Enoch Lee and Glenda Fagan serve as Medics.
Garvin Richards, the award-winning sports reporter, recently assigned Media Liaison for the DFA, will also accompany the team to the Dominican Republic, as well as Team Doctor, Dr. Dylan Dyer.
Photos: Dionne Durand-Smith
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