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Maiden win will validate Gold Cup campaign

Band of brothers: Bermuda will be aiming to end their Gold Cup journey on a high with victory over Nicaragua in front of an expected large contingent of travelling fans in New Jersey (Photograph courtesy of Mexsport)

Kyle Lightbourne, the Bermuda coach, said there will be a sense of validation if his side can break new ground by claiming their first win at the Concacaf Gold Cup today.

Bermuda, like their oppoments Nicaragua, who lost 4-0 to Costa Rica and 2-0 to Haiti, are yet to pick up a point and Lightbourne is expecting an evenly fought contest in their final group B game at the Red Bull Arena.

“A first win is at stake for both teams,” said Lightbourne, whose family will be attending the game. “Obviously, we want to win and we’re approaching it in the right manner.

“We know it’s going to be a difficult game and we have to meet the standards that we have set at the tournament.”

Although Bermuda have outperformed Nicaragua so far at the biennial competition, Lightbourne said he has been impressed by the technical ability of their opponents.

“Looking at the way the tournament has developed, I’d say we’re on a par with Nicaragua,” he added. “We both have zero points, so we’re even in that department. I expect it to be an even game, I really do.

“They are good on ball and move it well. They don’t give up and keep on going. It’s not their first time here and we have to respect that. We’re the new team at the Gold Cup and we will respect what they bring.”

Danté Leverock, the Bermuda captain, said his team-mates are determined to reward the hordes of Bermudians who have travelled to New Jersey for the match.

Leverock believes their final group game will resemble a home match because of the overwhelming support they can expect at the stadium.

With Bermuda building towards the inaugural Nations League, where they will face Mexico and Panama in the top tier in the autumn, Leverock said a victory over Nicaragua will serve as the perfect platform.

“We believe in ourselves and call ourselves ‘the golden generation’”, Leverock said. “We have played together all of our lives and a lot of teams don’t have that luxury.

“We want to reward ourselves and our fans because we have a lot of people coming from Bermuda to root for us, so, again, it will be a special feeling.

“A win will be a platform to build on for the Nations League and set the tone. We want to show the world that we can compete at this level and win games.”

Nahki Wells said his team-mates have “nothing to lose” in their dead rubber against Nicaragua, a nation ranked 129th in the world, 45 places above Bermuda.

“It’s a bit weird now because we know we can no longer progress from the group and our competition is done,” Wells said.

“There will be a bit of a pressure release and we go into the game with nothing to lose.

“The main focus now is the Nations League and Nicaragua is another opportunity to get a win against another strong nation, going into the bigger games, which for us are against Mexico and Panama.

“There will be plenty of Bermudians in attendance and we want to finish off by getting get the three points.”

Henry Duarte, the Nicaragua coach, believes victory over Bermuda will help soften the blow of failing to reach the quarter-finals.

“Obviously, we haven’t reached our main objective to advance to the next stage of the competition,” Duarte said.

“However, we did come with another goal and that was to win a game for Nicaragua at the Gold Cup.

“We know this won’t be easy for us, either, because Bermuda are a good team. We know a win can help our future objectives in continuing to advance in tournaments.”

Duarte, who has come under pressure from the Nicaraguan media for his side’s poor results at the competition, feels Bermuda remain an unknown quantity at this level.

“As I said, we had a clear objective of getting to the next round, with the thought that a victory over Haiti could be a possibility for that,” the Costa Rican said.

“But we are continuing to see Haiti improving and the continued projection of their football. We’re seeing that Bermuda has continued in the same way, at least in this tournament.

“It’s a step that we have to overcome, an important step for us to reach our first win. We have to take the next step.

“Bermuda are perhaps a bit of an unknown, but we have seen in the first two games that they have reinforced themselves and been able to play.

“Perhaps you could say that they are the favourites, but we have reviewed our games against Costa Rica and Haiti, and we are not as bad as the results show.”

Stephen Wright travelled to New Jersey courtesy of Jet Blue, which provided flights between Frisco, Texas, and Boston. Flights available from www.jetblue.com