Tiny Trinidad and Tobago bring Caribbean to World Cup finals

'I must phone my mum' says veteran Yorke after islands' historic victory
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The Independent Online

Dennis Lawrence, the 6ft 7in Wrexham defender, yesterday earned a place alongside Brian Lara and Hasely Crawford in the Trinidadian sporting pantheon when he scored the goal which put Trinidad and Tobago into the World Cup for the first time, one of seven newcomers at next year's finals.

Lawrence rose to head in Dwight Yorke's corner 49 minutes into the second leg of a play-off against Bahrain in Manama to secure a 2-1 aggregate victory for the Soca Warriors. The Caribbean nation will be the smallest competitior in Germany with a population of around 1.3 million.

Victory was especially sweet for Yorke and his fellow veteran, Russell Latapy, the 37-year-old Falkirk midfielder. Both had been on the losing side when Trinidad came within a match of reaching Italia '90 only to lose in Port of Spain to the United States. Both came out of retirement for the qualifying campaign.

"It is history, it is unbelievable," said Yorke. "We were very unlucky not to qualify in 1974 ­ though I was only three-years-old then I've heard all about it, and again 16 years later we were unlucky in 1989 for the 1990 finals. Now another 16 years on and we have done it at last ­ the third time lucky."

The 34-year-old former Manchester United striker, who now plays for Sydney in Australia, added: "I don't know how to describe my feelings and I don't know what to say. I must phone my mother first because she is back in Tobago and she will be going crazy about this. After that, I will have to enjoy a party."

Bahrain and their supporters lost their heads in the closing stages as Yorke, Latapy and Stern John took the ball into the corners to wind down the clock. To a backdrop of missile-throwing Hussain Ali Baba was dismissed for pushing referee Julian Oscar Ruiz Acosta. This followed the Colombian ruling out a 90th minute "equaliser" after Hussain Ali Ahmed flicked the ball away from goalkeeper Kelvin Jack as he threw it up to kick clear.

Bahrain's Croatian coach Luka Peruzovic said he would ask his federation to protest to Fifa. Though the world governing body's decision to replay the Asian play-off, after a refereeing error, aided the wealthy Gulf state's progress, a repeat is inconceivable.

Incredibly, the 10 men would still have forced extra time but for a stunning save by Jack deep into injury time. Latapy, who had put a great chance against the bar in the closing stages, was particularly relieved.

The Trinidad and Tobago team is an eclectic mix of imports and exports ,ranging from native Tobagan Yorke to Chris Birchall, the first white player to play for the islands for 60 years, who qualified as his mother was born in Port of Spain. The Port Vale midfielder scored Trinidad's first-leg goal with a superb volley but was injured early in yesterday's tie. Other UK-based players involved in the match included Rangers' Marvin Andrews, Gillingham's Ian Cox and Southampton's Kenwyne Jones.

The result completed an excellent day for Dutch coaches, the veteran Leo Beenhakker emulating Guus Hiddink's success with Australia.

Who's going to Germany

EUROPE

Croatia (19), Czech Republic (3), England (9=), France (5), Germany (15), Italy (12), Netherlands (2), Poland (23=), Portugal (9=), Serbia & Montenegro (42), Spain (8), Sweden (13), Switzerland (38), Ukraine (39).

ASIA

Iran (21), Japan (16), Saudi Arabia (31), South Korea (29).

AFRICA

Angola (60), Ghana (51), Ivory Coast (48), Togo (49=), Tunisia (27).

SOUTH AMERICA

Argentina (4), Brazil (1), Ecuador (36), Paraguay (33).

CENTRAL AMERICA

Costa Rica (20), Mexico (6), Trinidad & Tobago (53), USA (7).

OCEANIA

Australia (54).

Draw for finals: 9 December (Leipzig).

World Cup: 9 June to 9 July (Germany). Figures in parentheses denote world rankings

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