Bascome: Witness the fitness
Osagi Bascome believes the early season sharpness from playing overseas could have a major impact as Bermuda attempt to topple Panama today.
Kyle Lightbourne's side host Panama in their opening Nations League, league A, group B match at the National Stadium, the first of two games against the Central Americans in the space of four days, with the reverse fixture scheduled at the Rommel Fernández Stadium on Sunday.
The visiting side, will come into the encounter as heavy favourites, having appeared at their first World Cup in Russia last year, giving Belgium a tougher challenge than many expected, scoring their maiden goal in the competition against England, and losing narrowly to Tunisia. They also lost 1-0 to Jamaica in the Concacaf Gold Cup quarter-finals.
However, with nine of Bermuda's overseas-based players, including Danté Leverock, Nahki Wells, Reggie Lambe, Willie Clemons and Darlington team-mate Justin Donawa, already several weeks into their new seasons, Bascome believes, that added early match fitness could prove key as they aim to upset a nation ranked one hundred places above them in the Fifa world rankings.
“From a personal point of view, coming back into the national set up with minutes under my belt already for Darlington this season is a major help with fitness,” said Bascome, who enjoyed an encouraging Gold Cup at the heart of Bermuda's midfield.
“Having that sharpness early into the season has been a major problem for me over the years, so to come back already having a good pre-season and featuring in six or so games will make a big difference.
“I feel sharp and much fitter than I did during the Gold Cup campaign, so hopefully I can carry that into the upcoming matches and show the difference during the Nations League campaign.”
As well as taking on 174th-ranked Panama, Bermuda face the even more daunting task of home and away games against Gold Cup champions Mexico, ranked twelfth in the world, with Lightbourne's side having to finish as one of the top two teams in group B in order to retain their League A status.
However, with Bermuda enjoying their own relative success at a maiden Gold Cup, suffering narrow defeats to regional powerhouses Haiti and Costa Rica, before clinching an historic win over Nicaragua, Bascome is determined to prove just why they deserve to be at the top table of regional football.
“We're all very excited to be back together within the squad after the last tournament and we're all hopeful of getting a victory before heading out to Panama on the back of a good result,” he added.
“There were a lot of good things we can take from the Gold Cup performances and carry into the Nations League matches.
“We will be playing against some big countries, but we have to try and stamp our mark on the group and show we belong at this level.
“We've had a chance to have a look at Panama and see how we might be able to break them down, what their major strengths are and how best to set up defensively against them. Hopefully we can take what we've learnt into the game.
“When we came back from the Gold Cup campaign there was a good buzz around the whole country because of how well we performed out there, so hopefully everyone will come out and show us their support once again and we can give them a result they all deserve.”