PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – Head coach Tom Saintfiet has held out hope of Trinidad and Tobago still winning the Caribbean Football Union qualifying series, despite their opening loss to Suriname on Wednesday.The hosts went down 2-1 to the Surinamese at the Ato Boldon Stadium and now need to beat Haiti in their final game tomorrow, and hope Haiti beat Suriname on Friday, in order to have any chance of topping the standings.“Nothing is over yet. We need to hope that Haiti win on Friday … against Suriname and then it’s up to us to beat Haiti in 90 minutes with a better score than we lost to Suriname, then we can still qualify,” the Belgian said.“But it’s naturally very sour at the moment to imagine that it’s not in our own hands.”T&T started the encounter positively but failed to capitalise on a few good shots on goal, as the game went to the half scoreless.However, Suriname took the lead in the 76th minute through Guno Kwasie and even though T&T equalised five minutes later through a brilliant Tyrone Charles free kick, the visitors netted again in added extra time courtesy of a wonderful Ivanildo Rozenblad long range volley.Saintfiet, in only his third game in charge of T&T, lamented the fact T&T had not made more of their first-half dominance.“In the first 70 minutes, we didn’t make the opening goal. I think the public was very positive, there was a good atmosphere, everyone could feel we were hunting for that goal,” he pointed out.“We had a lot of corners, a lot of almost-goals. If we had scored the opening goal I’m sure we would have won the match.”Saintfiet said, having seen Suriname playing before in the Caribbean Cup last year, he always knew that T&T would have their hands full.“Suriname didn’t surprise me. I saw them play against Guyana and they were 1-0 behind after five minutes and they came back also in extra time to win (3-2),” he explained.“They have a lot of players who are skilful on the ball. For sure, number 10 (Roxey Fer) and 12 (Sorencio Juliaans); we had some difficulty with them.“I’m surprised by the result because I expected to win but I’m not surprised about the quality of Suriname.“I think Suriname is a good team with all local-based players except one who have showed in previous games they are very committed and (have a) very hard-fighting spirit, aggressive on the pitch … so I was not surprised by their quality. I was only disappointed in what we did and the result.”
Sunday evening, shortly after yet another demolition of an inferior non-conference foe, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema sat in the McClain Center media room, talking about things like the Badgers’ strong week of practice, the brief – very brief – moment of “adversity” UW faced in the first quarter against South Dakota and all the “fun things” his team has to prepare for this week against Nebraska.It was all standard fare for a Bielema postgame press conference, particularly in this 2011 season, where the Badgers have won their first four games by a combined 194-34 margin of victory. The questions Bielema and his players have faced thus far typically reference the weaker competition in non-conference play, while some trend toward a sort of nit-picking over the perceived “weaknesses” in UW’s game, such as why the team has committed six penalties in every game or why Alec Lerner’s kickoffs have seemed inconsistent. The answers supplied by the Badgers have been expected, and thus, very few negative things have been written about this team.But Bielema seemed to alter the pattern somewhat in his opening statement following Sunday’s 59-10 victory over the Coyotes. Unprovoked, Bielema played the “respect” card, a bit of a surprise considering the Badgers have already risen to No. 7 in both the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll.“The word ‘respect’ to me means a lot,” Bielema said. “I want people to respect what we do. We spend a lot of time trying to build up a reputation here of playing physical football, a mentality of being able to … put people away and kind of put your foot on them and go. I thought these guys did that.”For a program – and the media covering it – that talks so frequently of “turning the corner” into sustained national prominence, Bielema’s timing in mentioning the level of respect Wisconsin garners is excellent. With the Cornhuskers – as well as ESPN’s “College Gameday” pregame show – finally coming to town for their inaugural Big Ten contest, the Badgers’ couldn’t have asked for a bigger platform under the national spotlight.“[It’s going to be] a great scene, a great environment for college football,” Bielema said. “Hopefully, it’ll be a nice infomercial all week for the University of Wisconsin.”Outside of these two teams, the Big Ten has inspired very little confidence in the college football landscape. Michigan State and Ohio State have each suffered embarrassing non-conference losses, while traditionally mediocre Illinois has emerged as the popular dark-horse candidate. If Wisconsin can turn back Nebraska, it can seize a powerful spot alone at the top of the conference.Sure, road matchups with the Spartans and Buckeyes still loom in late October. But if Wisconsin were to falter against Nebraska, the significance of those contests would be significantly altered.When talking about becoming a consistent national power worthy of the “respect” that Bielema desires so greatly, winning these games against the toughest possible competition is a must. Dominant as they’ve been four games into 2011, the Badgers still have doubters throughout the country. Sure, they’ve looked so good that the only legitimate question seems to be if their sixth-ranked scoring offense and third-ranked scoring defense are benefits of a weak schedule. But that question has been powerful enough to give critics some life. According to Pollspeak.com, the lowest that voters placed Wisconsin was No. 20.Even the most rational Badgers fans would likely disagree with that ranking, and for good reason. And sure, they could very well be coming from one extra-grumpy beat reporter yet to be drawn to the allure of Russell Wilson’s 75.8 completion percentage or 11:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio or Nick Toon’s five receiving touchdowns.When Bielema revisited Nebraska Saturday, he managed to keep his expectation balanced. Sure, the Badgers want respect. They feel they’ve earned it, but also know nothing’s guaranteed moving forward.“We’ll take it for what it is. I realize from the outside looking in, there’s going to be a lot of eyes on us. But it’s only happening because we’ve done what we did.”Mike is a senior majoring in journalism. What do you think is at stake for the Badgers this weekend? Let him know on Twitter @mikefiammetta and be sure to follow @BHeraldSports for all the latest Badgers news. You can also listen to Mike on WSUM 91.7 FM’s “Student Section,” every Monday from 4-6 p.m.