Bermuda can match Gold Cup big hitters
Danté Leverock says Bermuda are better equipped to compete against the region's elite teams than at any point in the island's footballing history.
The Bermuda captain will be bursting with pride when he leads his country in their historic first game of the Concacaf Gold Cup against Haiti at the Estadio Nacional in San José, Costa Rica, tomorrow.
Although Bermuda has the smallest population out of the 16 teams at biennial competition by some distance, Leverock believes the number of players they have in professional environments has enabled them to close the gap on the larger nations.
“Every team in this tournament is dangerous,” Leverock said. “These are Concacaf's elite and we feel as though we should be among these teams.
“We're out to prove this isn't just a one-off thing. We deserve to be here, we've worked hard to be here, and we have players playing all over the world.
“We feel as though we can beat anyone on our day.
“When we've played Haiti in the past, we've probably one or two professional players and the rest have been local players.
“Now we have seven or eight professionals and semi-professionals and I think we're more equipped to play against these top-level nations.”
Although Haiti are ranked 75 places above Bermuda in the Fifa rankings in 100th position, Leverock said there is no danger of them being in awe of their opponents and are confident of making a positive start to their Gold Cup campaign.
Haiti warmed up for the tournament with two away games, losing 2-1 to Chile and beating Guyana 3-1, a team Bermuda defeated 1-0 at the National Stadium last week.
“Although Haiti have a lot of good players, playing at high levels around the world, so do we now,” the defender said.
“It's important we make a good start to the group and I really feel we have a good chance against them. Anything can happen on the day.
“We have our game plan and we're doing our homework on all of the teams in the group. We're just focused on executing on the day and getting the win against Haiti.
“The mood is good in the camp and the boys are buzzing. We're working hard in training, fine-tuning things, and enjoying our time here in Costa Rica. It's a beautiful place to be.”
Leverock is no stranger to the big stage, having experienced the Europa League first-round qualifiers during the 2017-18 season for his former club Narva Trans, of Estonia, against Zeljeznicar Sarajevo, of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
He played in front of a crowd of more than 10,000 in the Stadion Grbavica, the home of Sarajevo in the first leg, and said he relishes the big-game atmosphere.
“I've been lucky to be a professional in the past couple of years; it's always a plus being involved in football everyday and living that life,” added Leverock, who now plays for Sligo Rovers in the SSE Airtricity League in Ireland.
“I played in front of 10,000 people in the Europa League and in Ireland I'm playing in front of three to five thousand every week. I'm used to dealing with crowds and the atmosphere, and that's important.
“Anyway I can pass on my experiences to the other boys, I will do. It's just an honour to a part of this team and to reach the Gold Cup with them.”
n Bermuda manager Kyle Lightbourne has been handed a boost by the news that Donte Brangman appears to have recovered from the leg injury he picked up against Guyana in Bermuda's friendly last week.
The defender took part in the full training session at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Sota in Alejuala, Costa Rica, yesterday.
However, Lightbourne has been dealt a fresh concern with goalkeeper Dale Eve sitting out of the session because of a slight muscle strain. If Eve fails to recover in time the team will look to Jahquil Hill to deputise.
Stephen Wright travelled to San José, Costa Rica, courtesy of JetBlue, which provided flights between Bermuda, Boston, Orlando and San José. Flights available at www.jetblue.com