Sports

Jean optimistic for Team Bahamas in qualifiers

With The Bahamas senior men’s national soccer team’s opponents already known for the first round of the FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers for the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) region, Head Coach Nesley Jean knows that they have their work cut out for them. The Bahamas is the lowest ranked team in the group, according to the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings.

The Bahamas is in Group F with Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, Guyana and Puerto Rico. The revelation came during the CONCACAF draw last week Wednesday.

“It’s a very tough group with good teams but going in as underdog, it’s good for the group of guys so that we challenge ourselves. These games will identify how far we have come and where we need to be as a country,” Jean said.

The Bahamas’ Junkanoo Boys, as they are called, are ranked at number 30 in the CONCACAF region and at number 195 in the world as of July 16.

The nation has climbed up several places since it was at number 210 last year July. The upward movement in the rankings was because of the positive results the team attained during the CONCACAF Nations League last year. They were unbeaten in Group B in League C, winning a group that included Bonaire and the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

The highest ranked team in the world cup qualifiers group with The Bahamas is Trinidad and Tobago at number 105. St. Kitts and Nevis is ranked at number 139. Guyana and Puerto Rico are ranked at numbers 166 and 178 respectively.

The matches are set to get underway in October. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging a storm in the region, there is no telling if the games will be pushed back or not.

Jean is hoping to get his team into training sessions on New Providence as early as next week, the first week of September.

“We are continuously in contact will all of the players abroad and the coaches at the universities making sure that the players are staying in shape. Now that the games have been scheduled, we have implemented Zoom sessions so that all of the players are active and it also shows team bonding,” Jean said.

The first match-up will be a home game against St. Kitts and Nevis on Saturday, October 10. The second game will be an away game against a tough Guyanese squad on Tuesday, October 13.

In the second window, The Bahamas’ Junkanoo Boys will play an away game against Puerto Rico on Wednesday, November 11. In their final first-round game, which is a home game, Team Bahamas will take on the highest ranked team in the group, Trinidad and Tobago. That is scheduled for Saturday, November 14.

“We’re expecting the team to go in and compete at the highest level and do well. We are at a little disadvantage because we have not been training together as a team like other countries have but we will go out there and compete,” Jean said.

The winner of the group will advance to the second round to play the winner of Group A in a home and away direct elimination format in March 2021. The winner of that mini series will advance to the final round of qualifiers set for June 2021.

A squad has not been named as yet for Team Bahamas for the first round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers.

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Simba French

Simba joined The Nassau Guardian in 2012 as a technical producer for Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. He joined the Editorial Department as a sports reporter in 2018. Simba has covered a wide range of sports stories, including the 2018 CARIFTA in Nassau, Bahamas. Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism

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