Early promise vital to World Cup aspirations
Kyle Lightbourne, the Bermuda national coach, hopes his side can “hit the ground running” with a favourable result against regional powerhouse Canada in their Concacaf World Cup qualifying opener.
Bermuda take on group B rivals Canada away on October 8 in a match Lightbourne believes will have a major say in his team's bid to clear the first hurdle and progress to the next round of regional qualifiers for a place at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“The draw is interesting, we are up against Canada,” Lightbourne said.
“I would consider them one of the powerhouses in this region, consistent performers to make it to the Gold Cup. They will be the favourites in this group.
“It's a little disappointing from our standpoint that it's only one team that can advance, but we have a chance just like everybody else.
“We know our first match against Canada will be a difficult one, based on when the window opens and when the first game is, so I'm hoping we can hit the ground running.”
Aruba, Cayman Islands and Suriname are the remaining nations in group B.
Bermuda will host Aruba at the National Sports Centre on October 13 and Suriname away on November 13 before their final group match against Cayman Islands at home on November 17.
“In our previous campaigns playing against Mexico and Panama away we showed up really well,” Lightbourne added. “So in this group we have two of our tough matches away from home in Canada and Suriname and then on paper we'd say we have two fairly easier games in Aruba and Cayman Islands. But we have to take care of our first game with Canada first and all of our attention has to go to that game.
“They [Canada] played some very good football during the Gold Cup and we're going to have to be at our best to get something out of that game.
“My first thoughts are to get something out of our first two away games and then do our work at home, that's what it's about.
“We are in this position and we have to try to do the best we can to show we are a nation that's continuing to grow.”
The Concacaf preliminary qualifying draw for the next World Cup was held on Wednesday at Fifa's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.
Shaun Goater, the former Bermuda and Manchester City striker, was invited by Fifa to participate in the draw and was thrilled to have pulled Bermuda's ball from the hat.
“Pulling Bermuda out was a joy knowing that I had control of what group we were in,” Goater said.
“I really enjoyed that, it was a really thrilling experience.”
As for Bermuda's chances of progressing from the first round of qualifiers, Goater added: “I don't want to speak and put any pressure on Kyle [coach Lightbourne] and the team, but I don't want to under play it.
“But when I look at it I think it's not a bad group in terms of when I think we were able to push Mexico to the last minutes of the game for them to narrowly beat us.
“When I look at a Canada, Suriname, Aruba and Cayman Island I don't see why when I look at how we did against Mexico why this doesn't look like a good group.
“For me it feels a good group and again I don't want to put any extra pressure on Kyle and the team.
“But I also don't want to under play it because I think we have come leaps and bounds in terms of our progress and where Kyle has moved us to.”