Lightbourne bemoans rejigged qualifiers

Kyle Lightbourne has been left to bemoan the rejigged qualification process for the Concacaf Gold Cup after Bermuda were dealt a daunting route to reach the region’s flagship tournament.

At the first ever Concacaf Gold Cup draw held in Miami, United States, on Monday, Bermuda were drawn against Barbados in the first of their possible two-round Gold Cup Preliminary Round matches.

Should they be successful in that fixture, they will then have to face the winners of the match between Haiti and St Vincent and the Grenadines for a place in group B of next year’s competition alongside the US, Canada and Martinique. Having been relegated to League B of the Nations League, Bermuda were originally scheduled to face Bahamas or French Guiana in the second round of qualification for a place at the Gold Cup.

However, because of the suspension of fixtures originally scheduled for March, Concacaf were forced to create a preliminary round for those teams who were due to play in the qualification stage including Bermuda.

As a result of the new preliminary round matches, which will be played in a direct elimination format from July 2 to 6 at a central location in the United States, Bermuda are now posed with the prospect of a two-stage qualification process rather than a single encounter.

While acknowledging the need to reformat the qualification process due to the ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic, Lightbourne has still been left frustrated by the increased difficulty to reach what would be only a second appearance at the Gold Cup for his side.

“It’s a really interesting draw and obviously we’re happy to have the chance to reach the Gold Cup again,” Lightbourne said. “But personally I’m really disappointed that there had to be a change of format for the qualification process at all.

“We’ve gone from facing the prospect of playing one knockout game against either Bahamas or French Guiana to qualify to now having to play two games to get there.

“If we can get past Barbados we will more than likely face Haiti and so our road to qualification has become a lot harder, it certainly won’t be easy.

“It’s hard to accept the need to change the draw rule but there’s nothing we can do about it now, we just have to focus on what we have to do and try and overcome the obstacles in our way.

“It will certainly be a difficult qualification campaign for us but we have to get our heads round a number of things and regroup when the time comes.”

Attempting to look at the positives, Lightbourne is relishing the prospect of writing some wrongs against the possible two opponents, both of whom have beaten Bermuda in recent years, with Haiti notably and narrowly securing a 2-1 victory over his side at last year’s Gold Cup.

“If there is a positive to take from the draw it is that we owe both Barbados and Haiti something, we have a point to prove against both,” he added.

“Barbados seem to thrive off wanting to beat us and obviously Haiti narrowly beat us at the last Gold Cup when we should have taken control of the match with a number of opportunities in the early stages.

“We have another chance now to make amends and getting to the Gold Cup again would mean so much to us.

“Everyone of the smaller nations wants to get there; we’ve already shown our capabilities and that we can match the bigger nations.”

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Published Sep 30, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 30, 2020 at 11:15 am)

Lightbourne bemoans rejigged qualifiers

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