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Concacaf Nations League has made regional rivals stronger insists Kyle Lightbourne

The Bermuda national football team will face Guyana and Haiti in their remaining Concacaf Nations League group B fixtures this month (File photograph by Blair Simmons)

Kyle Lightbourne believes the introduction of the Concacaf Nations League has helped raise the standard and competitiveness of football throughout the region since its inception in 2018.

The national coach has observed how rival countries have come on in leaps and bounds having taken advantage of all available resources to enhance their chances of achieving their objectives.

“When we first started playing teams like Guyana they had a mixture like us, some amateurs and professionals, but as the Nations League has grown they have a lot of players playing in SkyBet League One and League Two in England,” Lightbourne said.

“A lot of their players play at that level and they also have a couple of players that play in the Major League Soccer [in the United States] as well.

“This is what the Nations League has brought to international football now. It’s definitely competition for every country and now countries are going out and recruiting players that have grandparents that were born in that country living in the UK, just like how Montserrat is.

“Ten years ago you knew against Montserrat was an easy victory but now they have a team of all professionals, so that’s instantly an improvement and they play at a very high level.

That’s just what we are up against and we have to be prepared and ready for it.”

Bermuda has already enjoyed success in the competition having made it’s debut Gold Cup in 2019 after finishing fifth in the Nations League qualifiers.

However, Lightbourne believes that success has made his team’s task even more challenging.

“Teams are aspiring to do what we have done by making it to the Gold Cup,” he said. “They don’t take us lightly any more and that’s an added challenge as well.”

Bermuda sit third in the Concacaf Nations League B group B on four points with two matches left to play.

Lightbourne’s team will host Guyana at the Flora Duffy Stadium on March 25 before travelling to the Dominican Republic to face leaders Haiti three days later.

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.

Lightbourne has busy rebuilding his squad ahead of the upcoming crucial fixtures and is keen to bring on board a host of younger players playing professionally in England, including the likes of Remy Coddington (West Ham), Ne-Jai Tucker (Burnley) and Deniche Hill (Leicester City).

Not only will victory over Guyana keep Bermuda’s Gold Cup qualifying hopes alive but will also secure their League B status for the next instalment of the Nations League to commence in September.

Relegation would make it even harder for Bermuda to qualify for the Gold Cup.

“We are in third spot right now and play Guyana who are above us by one point and then we play leaders Haiti, so our next game against Guyana is a huge game for us,” Lightbourne said. “We win that game we stay in League B.

“We have a good chance and then that means Montserrat has to beat Haiti to take it to the last day. Or if we win and they lose we will be four points ahead of them and they won’t be able to catch us on the last day of the campaign.”

Guyana edged Bermuda 2-1 in the first meeting between the two sides at the National Track and Field Leonora Stadium last June.

Asked if playing at home offer his team an advantage this time around, Lightbourne added: “Playing at home should be an advantage for us, but looking at Guyana they have all professionals now, so we are up against a tough opponent.”

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Published March 18, 2023 at 7:52 am (Updated March 18, 2023 at 8:25 am)

Concacaf Nations League has made regional rivals stronger insists Kyle Lightbourne

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