On a high after their win against Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti are beginning to dream of a berth in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter-finals. The Grenadiers could be on the verge of something special and, speaking with FIFA.com, striker Jean-Eudes Maurice explained that he feels they fully deserve to make history.
"We're playing for the people – to give them pleasure and make them happy," Maurice said, summing up his side's motivation with music in his voice and plenty of pride in his heart.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward certainly spread cheer in Haiti on Friday evening, scoring both goals in his team's 2-0 victory against Trinidad and Tobago. "When the players who play over there tell us about the joy of the people, it gives me shivers."
Excellent in last year's Caribbean Cup before lifting themselves to a record 39th place in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, Haiti now stand 90 minutes away from their third appearance in the Gold Cup quarter-finals, having also reached the last eight in 2002 and 2009. The Grenadiers kicked off their campaign with a 2-0 loss to Honduras, but they quickly rallied to keep their dream alive by seeing off the Soca Warriors.
'We'll have to be 100 per cent'
"After the first match, we talked among ourselves to say a few things, while remaining united," explained Maurice, back at PSG – where he first made his breakthrough in the French game – following loan spells with Lens and Le Mans. "We said that we had the fate of the country in our hands, and that really motivated us. We want to go as far as possible and we're aiming high. This team deserves to create history."
With Maurice on song, anything is possible, even if his double against Trinidad and Tobago was not his most prolific performance for Haiti. "I've scored a hat-trick in the past," pointed out the player first capped two years ago, who feels the Red and Blues "perhaps paid for the staggered arrival of players at our training camp in Canada" in their opening defeat.
Now back on track, the side already out of the running for a 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ place must overcome fatigue before Monday's crucial meeting with El Salvador. "We've played two games in eight days, which is very close together. Our first priority before Monday's game is to recover well because we'll have to be 100 per cent to repeat our performance against Trinidad and Tobago."
'We hope to reach the final'
Enjoying life under Cuban coach Israel Blake Cantero, "who keeps us on the right track, especially in terms of everyday issues away from the pitch", Maurice is contesting his very first Gold Cup. Unsurprisingly, the player born in the Parisian suburb of Alfortville is savouring the adventure, not least since the Haiti squad are "a group of friends who play the way we live".
"It's an exceptional thing to experience and I'm making the most of it," he said. "The pitches are superb, the fans are fantastic and we're rubbing shoulders with great players we usually only see on television. It's also a chance to discover different styles of football.
"This competition will also give my future a helping hand, because I have to face up to the fact that my future isn't at PSG," added the 2010 Coupe de France winner. Above all, though, the 27-year-old is focused on helping his side advance: "If we go out in the first round, we'll just be one more Haiti team that didn't reach the quarter-finals.
"We don't want that because we deserve better. We hope to reach the final and we believe we can do it. We're especially keen as these will be Jean-Jacques Pierre and Jean-Philippe Peguero's final games – we want to go far for them as well."
Maurice may only have been in the side for two years, but he has already noticed steady improvements. As he and his colleagues await their critical final outing in Group B, he feels confident that Haiti are on the right track.
"We can build something solid in this tournament," he said. "Since I've been involved, I've definitely seen us make forward progress." Nothing would prove that better than a place in the Gold Cup quarter-finals.