Bermuda have developed mental toughness
Shaun Goater has backed the Bermuda football team to build on their historic Concacaf Gold Cup qualification and praised their “big-game mentality”.
Kyle Lightbourne's side defeated the Dominican Republic in their final Nations League qualifier at the Estadio Cibao in Santiago on Sunday.
After falling behind to a fortuitous third-minute strike from Enmy Pena, Bermuda rallied with Zeiko Lewis equalising shortly after, before second-half goals from Nahki Wells and substitute Justin Donawa clinched the island's place at the Gold Cup for the first time.
“This is absolutely brilliant in terms of where Bermuda football goes from here,” said Goater, who scored 32 goals in 36 games for his country. “I think it's now where it should be, and that's competing with some of the bigger nations in the Caribbean and seeing what level we can reach and challenge ourselves. For me, it's about being optimistic and encouraged by this.
“This is the most important time for us because we have so many professional players and if they can bring that element of professionalism when they play for the country, I think we can achieve really good things.”
The Gold Cup, which will be held from June 15 to July 7 in the United States and Caribbean, is a biennial competition for teams in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The draw will be made in Los Angeles on April 10.
Bermuda finished fifth in the Nations League qualifying standings and will now play in group A of that competition, which starts in September. The draw will be held in Las Vegas today.
“Absolutely huge congratulations to Kyle Lightbourne, his staff and team because they have done a tremendous job,” Goater added. “In the past, we've had a mentality that's failed during the big game.
“Clearly, that's something that's been resolved and Kyle has got that professional mentality where they are able to deliver in the big game.
“Kyle is looking to challenge the guys to do great things, but it's one step at a time.
“We've got to the Gold Cup, made history and we've just got to take each game as it comes within the tournament now.”