Lightbourne: My underdogs are ready to bite
Bermuda will look to get their Concacaf Under-20 Championship campaign off on the front foot when they come up against Trinidad & Tobago in their opening group match at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa tomorrow.
“I think it's very important and beneficial to get a favourable result in the first game because it sets the tone and the direction that you are headed in,” Maurice Lowe, the Bermuda Football Association technical development director, said.
Bermuda are going into the match with a psychological advantage having edged their opponents 2-1 in the previous encounter at last Octobers' Caribbean Under-20 Championship in Curaçao.
Very little separated the two teams and Kyle Lightbourne, the Bermuda coach, anticipates tomorrow's clash will be just as evenly fought.
“The last time we played against them it was a tight game that could've gone either way,” Lightbourne said. “We took the lead, they came back and then we managed to pinch it later in the game.
“It's two evenly matched teams on the day and so we have to be careful of their strengths and play to ours. We want to be positive in what we do, and that's what everything has been building towards — getting everyone in a positive frame of mind.
“They have based themselves on possession so we know they can pass the ball around. It should be a good game and we just have to be mindful of making silly mistakes, use our strengths and take our chances.
“I think we want it just as much as them, and we just have to do it on the day. We have beaten them before, so let's do it again.
“We're looking forward to it and it's a good challenge for us because this is the first time we have been at this level and it's very exciting.”
Lowe is also bracing for a tough encounter and has cautioned the island's players about a potential backlash from a Trinidad a side out to avenge October's shock defeat.
“Our last match against Trinidad motivates them more to do well against us so that makes them more of a dangerous opponent than what we met previously, so we're not taking that for granted,” the former Dandy Town defender said. “We are making sure we are comprehensive in our preparation to play against them.”
Lightbourne believes that the Soca Warriors are carrying the heavier load of expectations going into the clash as the favourites, which could play into his team's hands.
“The pressure is on them because people are writing us off to be bottom of the group so it's more pressure on them as far as I am concerned,” he said. “Trinidad has a larger population and they have made it to the senior World Cup. Their budget is probably more than ours and so there's more pressure on them.
“We are a small nation but we want to bite big. We are the underdogs going in but I think we have prepared in the right way and we want our boys to be just as hungry.”
Bermuda's squad boasts several overseas players, including Bristol City playmaker Osagi Bascome and Walsall midfielder Kacy-Milan Butterfield.
Liam Evans, the Robin Hood midfielder, has been reappointed as captain with Bascome and Butterfield as joint vice-captains.
Bermuda touched down in Costa Rica yesterday after a training camp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they held National Premier Soccer League side Miami Fusion to a goalless draw in a warm-up.
“The practice match we played we were pleased not to concede because it gives us a platform to go on and win the match and if not at least get a positive result in a draw,” Lowe said. “We were looking at the options we have and how we can configure this team as necessary to get the optimum performance and result and were able to do that against a very good opponent. They gave us a good tactical test and we were able to meet that.
“Every match will have its own challenges but we will be able to make adjustments as necessary with the group of players we have.
“We have lots of quality in these twenty players we have here in Costa Rica that can do every job that's required and asked of them to do.”
At stake in Costa Rica are four spots for this year's Under-20 World Cup to be held in South Korea from May 20 to June 11.