The Bahamas draws with Bonaire to win group

The Bahamas Senior Men’s National Soccer team, undefeated in Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Nations League’s play this year, has been promoted to League B following a 1-1 draw against Bonaire on Sunday. That match, which took place at the Ergilio Hato Stadium in Willemstad, Curacao, yesterday afternoon, ended The Bahamas’ play in CONCACAF League C Group B action this year.

The Bahamas finished in the top spot in the group with 10 points, coming off three wins and a draw, and will play in League B next year. Bonaire finished second with seven points in the group – two wins, one draw and a loss – and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) finished third with zero points off four losses.

The promotion to League B means that The Bahamas will play against tougher teams in next year’s Nations League competition.

Before they play in that competition, they will be playing in the first round of the Gold Cup qualifiers in March 2020. If The Bahamas progresses, they will play in the second round that will be played in June 2020. If The Bahamas’ Junkanoo Boys make it out of that round, they will qualify for the 2021 Gold Cup.

Head Coach for The Bahamas Nesley Jean said the results showed determination.

“Us winning the group represents the determination we as Bahamians have. Playing an away game is never easy, everyone played their part for us to come out with the result needed to win the group. We played with our entire country on our minds and represented The Bahamas to the fullest. We need to give as much hope as possible in this time of need for our country,” Jean said.

Bahamian forward Terry Delancy Jr. was the lone goal scorer for The Bahamas against Bonaire on Sunday. Bonaire got the equalizer from Ilfred Piar.

Team Bahamas’ Captain Lesly St. Fleur got free in the 23rd minute of the game and took a shot but it hit the far post as Bonaire breathed a sigh of relief.

Delancy scored in the 36th minute of the game on a powerful header that Bonaire’s keeper Rishison Frans had no chance of getting. This was Delancy’s first goal of Nations League’s play.

“The header came in the spur of the moment. The backline of the opposition was extremely tight so we took the opportunity to stretch the line. Then Quinton (Carey) was aware enough to play the ball early and I took the opportunity to finish it,” Delancy said. “I’m quite relieved to score my first goal in the competition. I had the hat trick back against Turks and the games leading up I worked fairly hard to work off the ball and wasn’t able to score a goal so it’s a relief to score such an important goal which helped secure our promotion.”

During his celebration, Delancy was seen lifting up his shirt showing a message. It was a tribute to his late great-grandmother Willamae Deveaux, 92, who passed away on November 8. He said he dedicates the goal to her.

Bonaire scored the equalizer eight minutes later when Piar scored with a header that bounced to the far post, leaving the Bahamian goalie unable to get to the ball.

The Bahamas finished the game with 11 shots with three on target. The home team had six shots and had three on target.

Playing with urgency, Bonaire was the aggressor picking up five yellow cards compared to The Bahamas’ two yellow cards.

After The Bahamas forced Frans to make three saves in the first 10 minutes of the second half, they slowed the game down and denied Bonaire opportunities.

Jean spoke about the depth that the team has.

“This game was the first step in preparation for our next game, we know that it will be a challenge but nothing we cannot handle especially with the talented youth we have, which gives us an advantage we have never had in Bahamian football, depth on the bench. All the players know their spot is not guaranteed and they have to prove themselves. It’s great for me as a coach, because finally we have a group of quality players to select from,” Jean said.

Delancy said that the team has improved as the games went on and the attacking became cohesive.

“The team play itself has improved as every game went on where individuals started to realize each other’s movements so the attack has become a lot more cohesive as we consistently have the same squad coming in and building with every opportunity, with it either being training or the actual matches,” Delancy said.

As for the next phase, Jean said: “Looking ahead at the next phase, we have proved to the country that we are putting our blood, sweat and tears out there in winning for our country, which means we need the support from our fans. We need every advantage possible as we gear up for our toughest feat in Bahamian football. We made history and we plan on continuing.”

As of October 24, 2019, The Bahamas was ranked at number 201 in the world according to the FIFA (International Federation of Association Football)/Coca-Cola World Ranking – seven places higher than the country was previously ranked. The highest the team has been ranked was number 146 back in 2006. After this draw and the win last week Thursday against BVI, the ranking should improve for The Bahamas.

Team Bahamas returns home today.

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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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