Kyle Lightbourne remains optimistic Bermuda can reach the Gold Cup by finishing in the top ten of the Concacaf Nations League qualifying standings.
Lightbourne’s side must beat El Salvador at the National Stadium tomorrow to stand any chance of advancing to the Gold Cup, which will be held in the United States next year.
The Bermuda coach is starkly aware of the magnitude of their task and has labelled El Salvador as favourites based on their historical superiority, lofty regional Fifa ranking and perfect start to the qualifiers.
Whereas Bermuda lost their opener against Aruba before beating Sint Maarten, El Salvador have chalked up a pair of wins against Monserrat and Barbados to occupy the final qualifying spot for the Gold Cup — a biennial championship for teams in North, Central American, and the Caribbean region.
“A draw would make it very difficult for us, but a victory would put us in a very good position with one game to go [at home to Dominican Republic in March],” Lightbourne said. “A lot hinges on this match and we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We know we have a very tough game.”
Lightbourne has pored over footage of El Salvador’s 2-1 win away to Montserrat, 3-0 victory at home to Barbados, as well their 5-0 defeat by Brazil in a recent friendly. He believes he has drawn up a blueprint to defeat El Salvador after spotting a few chinks in their armour.
“I’ve identified how they play and it’s just about how we nullify them and use our weapons to hurt them,” Lightbourne added. “It should be very interesting and we’re hoping the public comes out to support us.”
Lightbourne has fond memories of facing El Salvador during his playing days. He is perhaps best remembered, at least by islanders of a certain vintage, for his powerful header to give Bermuda a 1-0 win over the Central Americans in a World Cup qualifier at the National Stadium in 1992.
Lightbourne, who enjoyed success as a professional in England, particularly at Walsall, still ranks the goal as the most important goal of his career.
“That goes down as my most famous goal,” Lightbourne said. “I might have scored a couple of more spectacular goals, but it comes down to the context of playing for your country, the importance of the game, and having to deliver on the day against a team ranked way above us.
“The journalists from El Salvador still remember it. When we were away with the Bermuda Under-20s in Costa Rica [in February 2017], their media spotted me, which was nice.
“We’re hoping someone else can create their own legacy this time around.”