Lightbourne encouraged by taking on Canada in Orlando
Bermuda will play their opening 2022 World Cup qualifying match against Canada behind closed doors at a neutral venue in Orlando, Florida.
The Canadian Soccer Association has confirmed that the home fixture on March 25 has been shifted to the Exploria Stadium because of the travel restrictions brought on by Covid-19. No spectators will be allowed to attend.
“We anticipated that it would be in Florida,” Kyle Lightbourne, the Bermuda coach, said.
“It’s a neutral venue so we will be sending someone there to have a look at the surroundings and do our normal protocol.
“Now we can start putting things in place, especially when you look at what climate we are going to be playing in.
“All those things do come into play when it comes to playing a match.”
Lightbourne added: “As you know we are not currently in our summer season and I would suspect that Florida may be just a little bit warmer than Bermuda right now, if not some days could be around the same temperatures.
“We just have to ramp up our preparations now. We know where we are going and it’s going to be difficult, but not impossible.”
The fixture was moved after the Canadian Government imposed stricter restrictions on travellers to combat a more contagious variant of the virus and suspended airline service to Mexico and all Caribbean destinations until April 30.
Canada restricts travel for most foreigners who are not essential workers, and athletes have not been deemed essential workers in Canada.
“Knowing where the venue is going to be is a relief because now there’s no more speculation about where the game could be played,” Lightbourne said.
“When you think of it Canada could’ve put it anywhere in the United States.
“They could’ve have taken it to a higher altitude place, you just never know.
“But I think that Florida is a place that we are used to going to, so that’s not out of our environment, I would say.”
Bermuda’s players will get the opportunity to acclimatise to the conditions in Florida when they take part in a training camp from March 2 to 8 at the IMG Academy in Bradenton where they also play two friendly matches against opponents yet to be confirmed.
“We will get to be in that climate in the next week so that is a plus for the players,” Lightbourne added.
“We know the ruling of going to America; it’s a 14-day quarantine prior to anyone coming from the United Kingdom, so that’s going to have an effect on UK-based players.
“In an ideal world it would’ve been nice to go two weeks prior and be there fully concentrated on playing that match.”
The camp will enable Bermuda to get precious minutes on the pitch in a competitive match, which they have been deprived of lately because of Covid-19 restrictions.
“I just hope that we can get everybody through injury free because when you start playing competitive matches that’s when players are picking up knocks, strains and different things like,” Lightbourne said.
“Those sort of things happen so we just hope that we can stay injury free with all the players that we have because that’s very important.”
Bermuda will host Aruba at the National Sports Centre five days after facing Canada on March 30, with group B matches to follow at home to Surinam on June 4 and away to Cayman Islands on June 8.
Bermuda is among 30 nations divided into six groups for the first round of World Cup qualifying within the Concacaf region covering North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The group winners will advance to a round of head-to-head knockout matches with the three winners joining Mexico, the United States, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Honduras in the final round.
The top three teams from the eight-team final qualifying round–robin round will qualify directly to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The fourth-place team will qualify for a Fifa intercontinental play-off.