Lightbourne: Bermuda can reach quarters
Kyle Lightbourne admits a positive result against Haiti is imperative if Bermuda are to achieve their goal of advancing to the Concacaf Gold Cup quarter-finals.
Bermuda, who arrived in San José, Costa Rica, on Monday before their opening game against Haiti on Sunday, must finish in the top two in group B, which also includes Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Although Lightbourne's side finished a lofty fifth in the Nations League qualifiers, ahead of Nicaragua, whom they play in their final group game, Bermuda are the lowest ranked of the four teams.
Haiti finished top of the standings while Costa Rica qualified automatically as participants in the final round of the World Cup qualifiers in 2018.
“The boys are confident and we feel like we can match most teams,” Lightbourne said.
“We want to try our best to get through to the next stage. We definitely want to make it hard for teams to play against us.
“We saw a lot of the things we've been working on in training against Guyana; on the ball in the first half and defensively in the second. It's on the day that we need to get it right.”
Bermuda showed they are made of sterner stuff these days, fighting back from a goal down in their must-win match away to the Dominican Republic in their final qualifier, and Lightbourne believes it will be a huge mistake if Haiti take his side lightly.
“Since the Nations League started, we've really grown into a good unit,” he added. “We showed we can come from behind against the Dominican Republic, but now we're going to be tested at a different level.
“I wouldn't say we want to catch Haiti by surprise, but I've played in games against opposition that you think you should beat.
“There's nothing worse than playing against a team you feel you should be beating and you're struggling to do anything against them. We can definitely get something out of the game.”
Lightbourne is enjoying his second stint as the Bermuda coach and said the national programme is more geared up for success than when he led the team from 2005 to 2007.
“Right now, we're able to coach with more of a purpose [than in 2005 to 2007 when Bermuda did not play a home game],” he said
“Concacaf have created pathways for countries by introducing the Nations League. We have something to fight for now with the Gold Cup and the Nations League.”
Bermuda have qualified in League A of the Nations League and have home and away ties in group B against Mexico and Panama in the autumn.
“We want to be able to stay at this level,” Lightbourne said. “However, we're going to have to learn and learn quickly if we are to build off this. There are opportunities for us to grow as a footballing nation.”
The Gold Cup has been extended from 12 teams to 16 teams split into four groups.
The seeded teams are Mexico in group A, Costa Rica in group B, Honduras in group C and the United States in group D. The remaining nations are Panama, Trinidad & Tobago, Canada, Martinique, Curaçao, Cuba, Guyana, Jamaica and El Salvador.
In the knockout rounds, the NRG Stadium in Houston and the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia will host two quarter-final matches each, on June 29 and 30 respectively.
The winning teams will move on to State Farm Stadium in Phoenix and Nissan Stadium in Nashville for the semi-finals. The final is scheduled to be played on July 7 at Soldier Field in Chicago.