Chris Birchall played the full ninety minutes as Trinidad and Tobago racked up one of the most famous wins in their International history.
Birchall’s team defeated Mexico 2-1 in their final group game, in the process pipping Guetamala to a play-off place for the World Cup finals in 2006.
The ‘Socawarriors’ will now play-off with fifth-place Asian finisher Bahrain. The first leg will be played in Port of Spain on 12 November and the second four days later in Bahrain.
If they should win that tie, Birchall could become the first current Vale player to appear in a World Cup Final while Trinidad would be only the second Carribean side ever to reach that stage of the competition.
In the same Hasely Crawford Stadium where they lost out on a trip to Italy 1990 on the final day of qualifying back in 1989, the home side were determined not to let this chance – their best since that fateful day – slip away.
An outrageous left-footed chip by Jaime Lozano over the head of goalkeeper Kelvin Jack after 38 minutes looked to have put paid to the islanders’ best hopes. But three minutes before the interval, an equaliser from Stern John, who was doing his very best to atone for an earlier penalty miss, brought the dismayed all-red crowd back to life.
Knowing a win would nullify anything Guatemala could do against Costa Rica, John sealed the night, and his hero status, with a vicious blast to the top corner just after the hour mark.
As he made no mistake from a genius bit of play from inspirational 37-year-old veteran Russell Lattapy, the ecstatic crowd forgave John’s earlier transgression as they danced and sang to the final whistle.