Soccer

Frustrating Mexico key for Bermuda

  • Close attention: Mexico’s Hirving Lozano, right, will be one of the key players Bermuda will need to shackle during their clash in Toluca on Tuesday

Photograph by Blaire Simmons

Panama can seal their own fate, and Bermuda’s as well, in League A of the Concacaf Nations League when they take on leaders Mexico tonight in their final group B match.

Mexico, with two wins, top the group, while Panama and Bermuda battle to avoid relegation by finishing bottom of the three-team group.

Both have three points from victories against each other, though Panama have a superior goal difference after their 4-1 win in Bermuda.

Bermuda produced the shock of the group so far when they pulled off a 2-0 win in Panama in their return fixture.

Should Mexico overcome Panama, Bermuda’s fate will be back in their own hands when they face the group leaders in their final match in Toluca on Tuesday.

Despite only a point possibly being needed, coach Kyle Lightbourne is well aware of the daunting task facing his squad away at the Gold Cup champions.

“We’re going to have to show pride, determination and guts to stay competitive,” Lightbourne said. “I’ll be asking them to dig even deeper than they have been digging.

“We tend to play a little bit differently away from home and the players know what’s expected of them.

“Can we frustrate them a little bit? It all depends on how we do it and we’re looking at different ways of how to do it.

“I want the players and the unit to come out in a better space for going through this environment. I think we’ve done tremendously to be in this position.”

Bermuda l will play a warm-up match today against Major League Soccer team DC United in St Croix, US Virgin Islands.

“We got invited to the match by DC United,” Lightbourne added.

“I guess it’s a testament to how well we’ve been doing over the last 18 months or so.

“We’re grateful for the match and it’s a great opportunity for us. It means there’s a bit of travelling to do, but we have to take these opportunities when they present themselves.”

Playing in the Concacaf Nations League has presented many challenges for Bermuda, with Lightbourne reflecting on the punishing nature of playing at international level.

“Some of our players have been playing a whole cycle of international matches with not a lot of breaks,” the coach added.

“The mental side of it starts to come into play now.

“They have played over the summer, they’re well into their domestic seasons and the games are coming thick and fast. These are some of the things our players are still adjusting to.

“All of the games we’ve played internationally have been at a very high level and the players know they need to be at their best.”

Lightbourne added: “When they play in Bermuda, they maybe have to be at their best every three or four games.

“At international level, you need to be at your best all of the time.

“That’s the difference the local players have found. Twenty minutes of not being at your best can undo results.”

Despite some disappointments, particularly at home against Panama, Lightbourne remained positive about how his side have equipped themselves throughout the Nations League campaign.

“We have to remember the things that we’re trying to achieve,” Lightbourne said.

“After getting to this level, the question was could we compete at this level.

“I think we have competed, although we have lost games and let ourselves down at home, especially against Panama.

“The next thing is can we stay at this level. We have an uphill struggle facing us in trying to stay in League A.

“We still have a reasonable chance of making the next Gold Cup. That’s what’s needed for us to continue our growth.”

He added: “We never want to drop below League B. I think it’s realistic for us to always be in League A or B. “When we’re in League A, we know we’re going to have to face the top-ranked teams in this region.

“We have to push ourselves, the coaching staff, the players. We have to go above and beyond to make it happen.”