Sports

Tough group for The Bahamas

Team set to play Trinidad, St. Kitts, Guyana and Puerto Rico

Team Bahamas now knows which team it will have to play in the group stage of the first round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers for the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) region. Team Bahamas was drawn in Group F yesterday afternoon, and will face Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, Guyana and Puerto Rico.

The Bahamas was the last country picked in the draw, and sit at the bottom of Group F. They will have an uphill battle as they head into group play as the lowest ranked team in the group at number 30 in the region and at number 195 in the world based on the latest FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) World Rankings.

On July 27, CONCACAF announced that The Bahamas was one of the 35 member associations that will be competing for the region’s 3.5 qualification spots. Team Bahamas is one of the 30 lower-ranked teams to play in the first round of qualifiers, set for October and November 2020 – two windows.

“The FIFA World Cup is the pinnacle of global football and the competition that players and coaches in our region, and the world over, dream of and aspire to compete in,” said CONCACAF President and FIFA Vice President Victor Montagliani. “Today’s draw is the beginning of those dreams for our member associations, their national teams and of course the fans. It will create real excitement and anticipation in the CONCACAF region.”

The Bahamas’ last game was back in November 2019 when they drew 1-1 against Bonaire. Before that, it was a 3-0 home cooking performance as they took care of the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

The Bahamas will play every team in the group once – a total of four matches. The four games will be split into two home and two away matches.

The first matchup 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.

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 set for June 2021.

“At CONCACAF, we are committed to providing more competitive opportunities for all our national teams, as clearly demonstrated by the expansion of Gold Cup and the hugely successful introduction of the CONCACAF Nations League. The format for these World Cup qualifiers fits with that commitment, with all teams guaranteed at least four matches and having a clear path to the final round and Qatar 2022 itself,” Montagliani said.

In Group F, Trinidad and Tobago leads the way at number 105 in the world rankings and number 11 in CONCACAF. Known as the Soca Warriors, their lone appearance at the FIFA World Cup came in 2006 in Germany. However, they were not able to get out of the group stage round.

In their last game, a friendly against Ecuador in November 2019, Trinidad and Tobago failed to get on the scoreboard, losing 3-0. Before that, they were in action against Anguilla in a friendly, winning easily 15-0, in 2019.

St. Kitts and Nevis sits three spots lower than Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF rankings at number 14. Additionally, they are at number 139 in the FIFA World Rankings. In their last outing against French Guyana back in November 2019, they lost 3-1. Earlier that same month, they were in a scoreless stalemate against Grenada.

Guyana and Puerto Rico are ranked at numbers 166 and 178 respectively in the FIFA World Rankings. The Guyanese squad’s last time on the pitch was back in October 2019 when they trounced Antigua and Barbuda 5-1. Four days before that, they fell 2-1 to Antigua and Barbuda.

Puerto Rico last played back in November 2019 when they won 3-0 over Anguilla. Their previous match was three days prior, which finished with a 5-0 loss to Guatemala.

The CONCACAF president said he hopes these qualification matches can provide some hope during the difficult time the world faces

“I know that many fans and communities in our region continue to face very challenging circumstances,” Montagliani said. “My thoughts are with them and I hope that the prospect of an exciting World Cup qualification campaign in CONCACAF can provide some hope and anticipation during such a difficult time for the world.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic grappling The Bahamas, with over 1,200 active cases, there is no timeline for when training for the men’s team will resume. There is great hope among the players and team personnel that the situation gets better and the country can come together and rally behind Team Bahamas.

The Bahamas Football Association (BFA) has yet to name a training squad for the first round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers. The head coach of the squad will be former national team player Nesley Jean.

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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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