Given El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago's precarious position as the bottom two sides of the six-team final phase of North, Central America and Caribbean qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, the pair's 12 August meeting in Port of Spain is vital for both teams' hopes.
With no major injury concerns to speak of, the struggling duo should be able to field full-strength sides at the Hasely Crawford stadium in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago. Catching the eye in the El Salvador squad are Los Cuscatlecos' five-strong foreign legion, headed by Eliseo Quintanilla, while their Caribbean hosts have a number of players with valuable British footballing experience.
The visitors, coached by Carlos de los Cobos, currently lie in fifth spot in the table with five points from their five games so far, and earned praise for victory over Mexico and after creditable performances against the USA, Costa Rica and Honduras. Less well-received was a first-round exit at the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup, where defeats against Canada and Jamaica soured a historic opening-game win over Costa Rica.
Russell Latapy's Soca Warriors, for their part, are back in last place with only two points to show from their five matches. However, they will take confidence from a battling display in their previous qualifier at Mexico's mythical Estadio Azteca, when they went down to a narrow 2-1 reverse.
Adding further spice is the fact that the two teams know each other extremely well. Aside from the 2-2 draw played out on 11 February in San Salvador, there have been four meetings between the two sides in the last two years, which ended with two wins for T&T, one for Los Cuscatlecos and one draw. Trinidad and Tobago also have the edge overall, boasting four wins to La Selecta's three with a further three matches finishing level.
Only a win will do
"It's a vital game for our (South Africa 2010) hopes," was the verdict of Salvadoran defender Marvin Gonzalez. "We need focus and hard work and we have to go for all three points. If we end up drawing then we'd take that too, but we're aiming for the win."
El Salvador go into the game on the back of a 2-1 friendly loss against Colombia, which for coach De los Cobos was an encouraging result. "We took a lot of positives from it. Colombia really had us on the ropes and that'll help us iron out any mistakes we made. Of course, our goal is to win the game against Trinidad, and what really matters is the result," said the Mexican-born strategist.
Their opponents, meanwhile, have had a much less hectic summer. Having not taken part in the Gold Cup, their only friendly game was a close-fought 3-2 win over minnows St. Kitts and Nevis. "We've been working really hard in the last few days," said T&T defender Dennis Lawrence, who does not believe a lack of match action will hamper his side. "We just need to approach the game with as positive an attitude as possible and play with maximum intensity. But if we don't win this time, it'll give us an almost impossible mountain to climb."
Echoing the sentiment was team-mate Carlos Edwards. "It's a critical match and I'm sure the players will give their all because it's vital we get all three points," said the Sunderland midfielder, who went on to underline the significance of Wednesday's encounter in Port of Spain. "We didn't play badly in our last two qualifiers (the 2-1 reverse in Mexico and a 3-2 home defeat by Costa Rica) but the results didn't go our way. We can't let that happen this time."
The FIFA.com EMIRATES MatchCast
Don't forget, on Wednesday, the FIFA.com editorial team will be providing you with a live commentary of the day's proceedings; analysing which teams are moving closer to a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa - and which teams are seeing their dreams slipping away.
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