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Lightbourne looking to the future ahead of crunch Concacaf Nations League fixtures

Bermuda coach Kyle Lightbourne (File photograph)

National football coach Kyle Lightbourne has been busy rebuilding his squad ahead of the final Concacaf Nations League group B fixtures with Guyana and Haiti.

With senior members nearing the end of their expiration date, Lightbourne has begun planning for the future and identified younger players, based both locally and overseas, that could potentially feature in this month’s group matches.

Among the new faces Lightbourne is keen to bring on board include the likes of Sincere Hall (Hull City), Ne-Jai Tucker (Burnley) and Remy Coddington (West Ham) who are all playing professionally in England.

“We are looking to bring some youngsters in, the guys that are overseas playing in academies,” Lightbourne told The Royal Gazette.

“We have to use our resources and bring a lot of the younger players, so you will see some new faces come into the national team.

“We are going through a little bit of a transition and bringing in youngsters as the squad is starting to age out, so it has to be done.

“We are going through a bit of a change and it’s just at the time that it needs to be done.

“We can see in the region of eight new players we bring in between Bermuda and overseas, so we will see.”

Lightbourne is confident the younger players that he has scouted will be equal to the task should they get the nod.

“These youngsters that are overseas playing in these academies and under-23s all should have bright futures for Bermuda,” he added. “It’s up to them whether they want to make themselves a mainstay in the national team which is a commitment.

“You have to commit to it and you can’t be part time. You have to want to play for your country and want to do well.”

Lightbourne says team selection has not gone as smoothly as planned.

“It’s difficult because we have half of the team away and are trying to piece the team together here in Bermuda with the local players,” he said.

“My main priority right now is to work with some of the local players here, the ones that have made themselves available, and hopefully we will be able to get things right with the players that are coming from overseas.”

Lightbourne has been forced to make one change as midfielder Willie Clemons (Braintree Town) has been ruled out through injury.

“Willie Clemons has been ruled out through injury,” he confirmed.

“I am not sure of the reason behind Willie’s injury, but he’s reported that he’s injured.”

On a brighter note, senior forward Zeiko Lewis (Sacramento Republic) is set to rejoin the squad having not featured in the previous matches away to Guyana and Montserrat.

“We get back Zeiko who was not there with us in the first part,” Lightbourne confirmed. “Zeiko has committed 100 per cent to this one.”Bermuda are third in the Nations League group B on four points, six adrift of leaders Haiti, and two below 
Guyana.The national team will host Guyana at the Flora Duffy Stadium on March 25, before travelling to the Dominican Republic to face Haiti three days later at the Estadio Panamericano.

This month’s final round of Nations League group matches will determine the four group A winners that will advance to the finals being held in June and the 24 teams that will qualify for the Concacaf Gold Cup preliminary round and group stage to be played between June 16 and July 16.

The winner of Bermuda’s group will gain promotion to group A and automatic qualification to the Gold Cup while the runner-up will compete in the 12-team preliminary event for the three available spots for the main event. The bottom team will be relegated to 
group C.

“Our next game against Guyana is a huge game for us. If we win that game, it enhances our chances of staying in group B and puts us in position to go through to the Gold Cup preliminary round,” Lightbourne said. “We are hoping we can get the result here in Bermuda and put on a good performance against Haiti to get that second spot. But we have to take one game at a time and the first game, our most important game, is Guyana.”

Bermuda made it’s debut Gold Cup in 2019 after finishing fifth in the Nations League qualifiers.

Meanwhile, Concacaf has revised the format for the next instalment of the Nations League to commence in September, which includes the expansion of group A to 16 teams and creation of a new home-and-away quarter-final round that will see all group A winners qualify for the Nations League Finals and Conmebol Copa America.

The revised format that does not apply to group B which will remain as it is.

Concacaf also announced that regional 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers will begin in March 2024 with Fifa having granted the region a further three direct qualification berths and two Fifa Intercontinental play-off berths.

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Published March 11, 2023 at 7:52 am (Updated March 11, 2023 at 8:16 am)

Lightbourne looking to the future ahead of crunch Concacaf Nations League fixtures

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