It has been a tumultuous year for sports locally, regionally and internationally, but CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) is forging ahead with its plans. The Bahamas’ senior men’s national soccer team drew a matchup against Guadeloupe in the 2021 Gold Cup first round.
The draw took place on Monday night in Miami, Florida with it being carried live on CONCACAF’s YouTube channel. It was the first ever Gold Cup draw in its 30-year existence. The prelims, first and second rounds, are set for July 2-6, 2021. All of the matches are set to be played at different stadiums in the United States.
Head Coach for The Bahamas’ “Junkanoo Boys” Nesley Jean is of the view that it is a good draw for The Bahamas, which is looking to get to the group stage for the first time. Jean was one of 10 national team coaches who was watching the proceedings live.
“I think it’s a good draw for us. It’s a good opportunity for us to compete and an honor to play in such a huge tournament against a good team,” he said.
CONCACAF President and FIFA (International Football Federation) Vice President Victor Montagliani said he hopes the draw provided some excitement for the fans.
“I know that many communities in our region are going through challenging times and the thoughts of everyone at CONCACAF are with them. I hope tonight’s draw provided some anticipation for the fans, a chance to remember great Gold Cup moments of the past and to talk about football with friends and family,” Montaglini said.
The Bahamas is ranked at number 196 in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings. The strength of Guadeloupe is not easy to gauge. It is not ranked because it is an overseas French territory. This is also the first time that the two senior national teams will face off against each other on grass.
“Yes we will have challenges but we will only learn from playing against teams like this, but yet we want to go out and showcase our ability and our talent on the big stage. Because most of our players are off to school, it should not make a difference where we play. We just have to go out and do our job which is to win,” Jean said.
It is a single-elimination match meaning the teams will play one game and the winner moves on to the second round. Jean said that the single elimination format adds pressure to both teams. It also makes the match exciting as both teams will look to put on a show.
“It does add pressure, I think, for both teams so at the moment we have to be prepared as best as we can. The only thing that matters is to win,” Jean said.
Both teams played in the 2019 CONCACAF Nations League competition. The Bahamas won League C Group B. They were undefeated as they won three matches and drew one to secure 10 points.
Guadeloupe also played in League C but in Group D. They won the group unscathed, winning all four of their matches.
Jean has not spoken to the players as yet, but he believes they have seen the draw. As for training, Jean is optimistic that they will resume training soon.
Jean was once a staple on the national team side before venturing into coaching. Asked if there is any temptation to return to the pitch, Jean said he won’t do so as there is enough talent to get the job done.
This is the second regional competition that The Bahamas will be playing in, in 2021. They are set to play the CONCACAF Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in March 2021.
If The Bahamas wins this match they will play the winner of Guatemala and Guyana in the second round. If the Bahamian side advances past the second round they will be in the group stage in Group C. That group includes Costa Rica, Suriname and Jamaica. The group stage is set to start July 10, 2021.
Hopefully by then, travel restrictions will be less of a burden as countries battle through the COVID-19 pandemic.