Both The Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands senior men’s national soccer teams got their final practice sessions in last night, as they face off against each other for the fourth time in history in Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Nations League C Group B action tonight at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium at 7 o’clock.
The Junkanoo Boys will look to continue their dominance in the group that also has Bonaire. They sport a perfect 2-0 win-loss record in the group and will look to keep it that way tonight according to Happy Hall, assistant coach and player for Team Bahamas.
“We want to continue our same form. We can’t think about games in the past,” said Hall. “In this league format where teams have different players, some players can’t get in and more players come in so you don’t really know who you are facing. It is the same country, the same national team but not necessarily the same players. If you compare this team of ours from The Bahamas in our last game against Bonaire we have a different group of players as well.”
He added that it will not affect the team’s chemistry.
John Reilly, head coach of BVI, took time out to give a message on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands.
“Our thoughts and prayers go to The Bahamas people who suffered through the hurricane. Having experienced it through Hurricane Irma, our thoughts are with you. We know the hardships. [A]ll the support we can give to you, we will. For us, this game is secondary but we hope it brings joy to all the people involved,” Reilly said.
In their last meeting, The Bahamas picked apart BVI to win 4-0, giving Bahamian goalkeeper Dwayne Whylly, a clean sheet. Dan Neville, assistant coach of BVI, said that they are not changing up much of their game plan from the last game, but he is looking to give the young players some experience.
“I don’t think we are looking to change it up too much, we are at the beginning of a project. We picked eight under-19 players for this squad,” Neville said. “We are looking at the long term, backing the youth, those are the principles we believe in. We probably won’t change too much things, we will just hopefully look to maintain our concentration levels. [W]e just need to be a little more clinical in both boxes.”
Neville is speaking of his team’s lack of focus in the second half, especially after they gave up three goals in the second half last time these two teams clashed.
One of the threats that the visitors have to deal with is Bahamian captain and veteran forward, Lesly St. Fleur. He scored two goals against the BVI and he said that he will just go out there, perform and play his game.
Cameron Hepple, another veteran for Team Bahamas, said they just have to play their game.
“It is just like any game that we go out and play. We have to play our game, stay positive and make sure that we come out with the win. This is just the first step to more games that we want to keep continuing to play,” Hepple said.
Wearing the armband for the visitors will be defender Kristian Javier. He knows that his defense is up against St. Fleur again and said they will do what they know.
“We’re going to stick to the game plan, stay compact and do as we are told. We know that we can compete at this level and we have the quality to do so as well, it is just a matter of staying focused and being consistent the entire 90 minutes,” Javier said.
The Nations League has been beneficial for participating countries as they have been given an additional four games to play in the year. Reilly is supportive of the introduction of the Nations League competition.
“We are fully supportive of the idea as a nation and as coaches ourselves to get players together a time when there was no competitive football before. It has brought our program forward, introducing youngsters to the game. We have nothing but praise to CONCACAF for doing this. Hopefully it continues, expands and more than anything becomes sustainable for everyone. It is so important for the smaller nations.”
Reilly’s team consists of 10 players from the BVI, four from the United Kingdom and five from the United States.
The British Virgin Islands is still searching for its first win in the group. The team will act as spoilers in its final match of the group stage.
The Bahamas will need a win tonight to stay atop the group and if that is accomplished, will only need a draw or a close loss to be promoted when the team faces Bonaire on Sunday, November 17 at Stadion Ergilio Hato in Curaçao.
Admission is free for the game tonight.