MANAGUA, Nicaragua (CMC):Trinidad and Tobago head coach Tom Siantfiet has underscored the importance of the two international friendlies against Nicaragua, as his side prepares for the three-nation CFU Caribbean Cup play-off later this month.In games at the National Football Stadium here, T&T lost the opener 2-1 last Tuesday before bouncing back with an impressive 3-1 victory on Friday night.T&T will be back in action on Wednesday when they clash with Suriname in the first game of the play-off series at the Ato Boldon Stadium. They take on Haiti at the same venue next Sunday.”I think it’s very important, and I am very happy that the association could organise these matches in a short period of time,” Saintfiet said.”People sometimes forget that I am only two-and-a-half, three weeks in Trinidad and that I saw only a few league matches and I had not a lot of time to select and to find the right players for the coming weeks.”So this two-week training camp plus these two friendly matches helped me a lot to know which players are ready, which system is best, and how we can be prepared for Suriname and Haiti.”I am a very happy coach that we use these days between Christmas and New Years to prepare our team because we have made a lot of steps forward.”WITHOUT TOP PLAYERSThe squad selected for the two friendlies were without captain and talisman Kenwyne Jones, who was axed by Saintfiet, and first-choice goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, who was not released by his club.Orlando City midfielder Kevin Molino, Cordell Cato, Sheldon Bateau, Khaleem Hyland, Andre Boucaud and Levi Garcia were all unavailable through club commitments while India-based forward Cornell Glen was also called up for his first international in three years.Domestic players Tyrone Charles, Nathan Lewis and Akeem Roach gained call-ups for the first time.Saintfiet said he was pleased with the attitude and approach of the entire squad during the two-match series here.”It’s always difficult to say, because we also have to respect the players that played last Tuesday. They also played quite well last match,” said the 43-year-old Belgian.”[On Friday], the guys who came in, like Kevan George, Carlyle Mitchell, Tyrone Charles and Cornell Glen, did fantastic, but it’s not only them; it’s a whole team performance.”Even after the changes, I have to think of players like Aikim Andrews and other players who performed well. I think we as a team don’t have one, two, three big players, but we have a team performance of 20-23 players who are playing on a high level.”Sure [on Friday], some players showed that they deserved to be on the national team. I think some were a little bit out of selection for a long period and they wanted to prove something, and I hope in the coming weeks, they can continue that.”The winner of the upcoming series will meet the fifth-placed side from Central America in a qualifier which will determine the final spot at the CONCACAF Gold Cup later this year.