The Bahamas’ attempt at finishing in the top two at the 2019 Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Beach Soccer Championship came to an end on Friday as El Salvador defeated them, 8-4, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
A day after falling 3-2 to a strong United States team, The Bahamas faced a tough team from El Salvador, the winner of Group D. El Salvador dominated the first third, scoring three goals and shutting The Bahamas out.
Luis Escobar, of Brazil, head coach of Team Bahamas, said the game was a good one but they took too long to execute their style of play.
“Analyzing the game, we took too long to take control of the game and when we took control, it was too late – the score was already 3-0. During the first break, we were able to re-organize the team where we had a great advantage to take control of the game, where we were able to shorten the margin, 4-2. In the third period we were able to control the game but due to a lack of experience with international tournaments we were unable to maintain it. The El Salvador team is ranked above us and had much more international games. They were able to take advantage of the game and won the game 8-4,” said Escobar.
Lesly St. Fleur opened the scoring for The Bahamas’ “Junkanoo Boys” to close El Salvador’s lead to 3-1. He scored in the second third.
Elmer Robles gave El Salvador its fourth goal of the afternoon, putting his team ahead 4-1.
Coming down to the end of the second third, The Bahamas got on the score sheet again when James Thompson pulled his team to within two.
The period ended 4-2, setting the stage for a possible dramatic finish.
With four minutes left in the final third, El Salvador got a goal from Ruben Batres to go ahead 5-2. Two minutes later, he scored again to put the game out of reach.
The Bahamas’ veterans, Dwayne Forbes and Kyle Williams, found the back of the net in the waning minutes of the game. El Salvador was up 7-4 with three minutes remaining.
Augustin Ruiz completed his hat-trick to put El Salvador up 8-4 before the final whistle blew.
El Salvador advanced to play the United States in the semifinals on Saturday. They fell to the U.S., 5-4, on penalties.
Gavin Christie, captain of Team Bahamas, said the team displayed a high level of professionalism.
“The tournament was a huge success for The Bahamas. The team displayed a level of professionalism and skill like never before, performing at a high level and competing with the powerhouses of the CONCACAF region,” Christie said. “I was ecstatic by the performance of the young guys. Regardless of their age or size they came ready to fight, work and win. They put their all into the games and left everything on the pitch. We have started to create a Bahamian brand of beach football that is starting to be recognized globally,” he added.
One of the oldest players on the team, Christie said once God keeps his legs moving and he can be an asset to the team, he will try his best to play.
Timothy Munnings Jr. ended the tournament with five goals for The Bahamas. He was the team’s leading goal scorer and is one of the youngest players on the team. Jaime Thompson, another young player, and Jean Francois finished with four goals apiece.
Escobar is hoping that the team gets to play more international games so that they could improve the team’s international ranking.
Jason McDowall, head of beach soccer in The Bahamas and head of the delegation in Mexico, said the team improved with every game they played.
“I am delighted with the team’s performance. Every game we improved. Our game against the United States was one of our best games. The team never gave up until the final whistle blew. It was just down to a foul that lost us the points. We played El Salvador in the quarterfinals, they rank higher than us and are a strong team, but we made sure it was not going to be an easy game for them,” McDowall said.
The team will take a few days off before going back to training. According to McDowall, they will be playing more international games.
The Bahamas won its first game 7-4 against Antigua and Barbuda in Group C play at the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship. The team won 12-2 over Bonaire in their second game. They fought valiantly to get the top-spot in Group C but fell to the United States, 3-2.
The host nation and the U.S. qualified for the 2019 FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) Beach Soccer World Cup to be held in Asunción, Paraguay, from November 21 to December 1, 2019.
In the final yesterday, Mexico won 6-2 over the USA, using their home field to their advantage. In the third-place game, El Salvador won 8-3 over Panama, the defending champions.