Bascome to ring changes against French Guiana
Expect coach Andrew Bascome to make some changes to how he sets up his Bermuda team for tonight's crucial Caribbean Cup first round match with French Guiana at the National Sports Centre.
Bascome hinted as such prior to the team going through some drills during a training session last evening at the stadium. He knows that a victory would put the team in good position to advance to the second round, with French Guiana set to host Cuba in the group's final match on Tuesday.
The team started with a 4-2-3-1 formation against Cuba, adopting some degree of caution, in the away match that was played before a crowd of less than 100 at the Estadio Pedro Marrero Stadium. It may have had something to do with the fact that US president Barack Obama was visiting Havana at the time.
“I can tell you the commitment and level of play that they displayed I was very impressed with,” said the coach, who remembers playing at the same stadium in a CAC game back in the 1980s when he scored the equaliser from the penalty spot before Bermuda lost the tie 2-1.
More than half the current squad are based overseas, either in school in US and Canada or playing professionally, which posed the obviously challenges for the coaching staff.
“We haven't been together in eight months, Friday was our first training session and that's why I give a lot of credit to them because we didn't know anything about the opposition,” Bascome said. “We tinkered with a few things but the challenge was you couldn't actually simulate a game because it was so close to the game.
“Everybody stuck to their task and for that they have to be commended, I can honestly tell you. There were so many uncertainties, going into a game and being together for the first time in eight months just three days prior.
“They responded fantastically and I have nothing but appreciation, though of course I wish the result could have been better. Cuba were a very good team, hard working and disciplined.
“Obama was there and that took up a lot [of interest]. It was maybe less than 100 there but it didn't affect their desire to play. The stadium we played in was the stadium I played in but I didn't recognise the stadium.”
Now, at home, the indication is Bascome will play two up front, after using captain Kieshen Bean alongside Jonté Smith during last night's drills. Smith came off the bench and scored the consolation goal in injury time.
Antwan Russell was a late withdrawal from the squad because of a family emergency and didn't train yesterday. Bermuda and French Guiana travelled to Bermuda on the same flight on Thursday evening and while not much is know about their opponents, Bascome insists they cannot be taken lightly.
French Guiana are not affiliated with Fifa so don't play in World Cup qualifying matches, though their best players often end up going to France and playing for that country. Cyrille Regis, the former England forward, was born there and is one of their best known footballing exports.
“We want to win but everything has to be right,” Bascome said. “We must play attacking football and respect the principles of the game, offensively and defensively. And when you respect the game you respect the opposition.”
Bascome admitted there could even be a change in formation in an attempt to secure a good result and advance to the second round in May. “We played 4-2-3-1, they went up and I was able to stretch them by bringing on another forward,” the coach said.
“We had Kieshen and Jonte up top and that's who we finished with. The second goal happened when Kilian Elkinson went down with cramp and the goal came right down that side.
“We must play positive football, take the game to them in order to keep them back. I'm expecting our players who have the quality to show their quality, the Zeiko Lewises, the Reggie Lambes, the Kieshen Beans ... they must come to express themselves. All the elements are here, a good surface, we're back home, a good environment, the stage is set and we must win.”
The match will start at 8pm. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.premierticketsglobal.com