Lightbourne looks for home comforts
Kyle Lightbourne has set his side an ambitious target of four points from their opening two Concacaf Nations League matches against Panama, starting with a win at the National Stadium tomorrow.
The Bermuda coach says his team have nothing to fear from their opponents and has challenged his players to continue their upward trajectory by toppling a nation ranked one hundred places above them in the Fifa world rankings.
Although Panama are heavy favourites, having qualified for the World Cup in Russia last summer, Lightbourne believes his players have grown exponentially from their exploits at the Gold Cup in June and proved they belong at the top table of regional football.
“Realistically, four points will put us in a good position,” said Lightbourne, whose side face Panama away at the Estadio Rommel Fernández on Sunday.
“That’s what we have to aim for. We have to go into this home game looking for the win.”
Bermuda must finish as one of the top two teams in group B, which also includes Gold Cup winners Mexico, in order to retain their League A status.
However, with Mexico, ranked twelfth in the world, posing an even greater threat than 74th-ranked Panama, Lightbourne feels it is imperative his side take points off “Los Canaleros”.
“At the beginning, we probably would have been satisfied with League B, but we jumped above that and made it to League A,” said Lightbourne, whose side finished fifth in the Nations League qualifying standings.
“Now the thing is, can we stay there. Can we make another upward curve and keep progressing.
“The difference in this competition, as opposed to the Gold Cup, is that we’re playing home and away matches. At home, we want to be unbeaten; we want to win our home matches; that’s a strategy within itself.
“We will have to play a little differently away and all of these little scenarios that we didn’t have in the Gold Cup will come into play. It’s a quick turnaround of games, too, and we will have to utilise the squad. ”
The self-belief within the Bermuda camp will have rocketed since the Gold Cup, where they earned praise for their battling defeats against Haiti and Costa Rica and made history with a maiden win in the competition against Nicaragua.
Lightbourne also believes his players will have developed a more streetwise and intelligent edge from those experiences.
“When you get to this level you know you’re going to be under the cosh at times,” Lightbourne added. “It’s important how you deal with those moments and how you come through them.
“Panama are a neat and tidy team, a team that’s got pace in their front areas and have guys who can handle the ball. We have to respect them, but we have to try and impose our style upon them as well and see if we can dictate the play.”
With nine of Bermuda’s overseas-based players already several weeks into their new seasons, Lightbourne expects his squad to be fitter and sharper than they were at the Gold Cup.
“At the Gold Cup, we were a little worried about the fitness of our players, as it came at the end of the season,” he said. “We do have a few local players that we are a little worried about because they haven’t had as many minutes as the overseas players.
“Zeiko [Lewis] is coming towards the end of his season, while Danté [Leverock] is midseason. Then, there are guys like Nahki [Wells], Reggie [Lambe], Willie [Clemons], Justin [Donawa] and Osagi [Bascome] whose fitness levels should be just right.
“It’s just nice to have everyone back together and have that feeling we had in the summer.”
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