Bermuda’s National footballers warmed up for this Sunday’s 2010 World Cup qualifier against Trinidad with back to back victories over Barbados on Friday and Monday.
Boosted by the addition of New England Revolution striker Khano Smith, the Kenny Thompson coached team easily got by Barbados 3-0 in the second of two friendlies to follow up their 2-1 win last Friday. Click here to view Video - Build Up to Bermuda
Their underdog status may remain, but at least Bermuda's double over the Bajans has given the Island reason to contemplate the unthinkable – a positive result against Caribbean powerhouse Trinidad on Sunday.
A brace from Keishen Bean and a neat finish from John Barry Nusum did the damage at the National Sports Centre. In truth the score could have been far greater against a Barbados team bereft of any creativity other than in ways to kicks lumps out the opposition.
Bermuda coach Thompson has urged his players to embrace the cauldron-like atmosphere and feed off the crowd's energy when they take on favourites T&T in a World Cup qualifier in Port of Spain this weekend.
Thompson has warned his young charges to ward against being overawed by the occasion and instead use the partisan support to inspire them to raise their performances.
And he will look towards warhorse Meshach Wade, Smith and Nusum to ensure there is no repeat of the stage fright that gripped Bermuda during the early stages of their last round clash against Cayman Islands in the Caribbean.
"We will let the players know what to expect as we know there will be a very big crowd," said Thompson. "We have enough people who can advise our players on how to handle the situation. Instead of being afraid, they must embrace the situation, even though the crowd is not cheering for them.
"You need to use the energy of the crowd to motivate you. Khano (Smith), John (Nusum) and Timmy (Figureido) were part of the last World Cup campaign and they can help ease their team-mates' worries.
"Both myself and Meshach played in front of big crowds in El Salvador and Haiti when Gary Darrell was our coach as well."
Hamilton Parish player/coach Wade received a shock recall to the national team in April for their training trip to Fulham FC, and delivered commanding displays in the recent double-header against Barbados.
In the former Hereford United player, Thompson believes he has found a 'Makelele-style figure' to do the dirty work, suffocate the Soca Warriors, and help launch Bermuda's counter-attacks.
"Meshach is a very important player for us in Trinidad," Thompson said. "We don't have a player like Meshach who can sit in front of the defence and make it difficult for our opponents.
"The old type of player in that position only had the physical attributes to stop the opponent playing – you wouldn't get much else from him.
"That prototype has changed. I'm thinking of a Makelele, or even a more technical player like a Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal or Andersson at Manchester United.
"I think Meshach is the closest type of player we have in terms of being able to sit and suffocate the opponent."
Thompson sprung a few surprises yesterday when he named his 18-man squad, with midfielder Sammy DeGraff and winger Tyrell Burgess both left out of the travelling party that leaves the Island tomorrow.
The national team coach admitted whittling down 18 players from a 25-man squad had not been an easy process and said he had selected players with the qualities he felt he needed to negotiate Trinidad in their 'own backyard'.
"We looked at the first leg in Trinidad and selected players with the qualities we need for this type of match," said Thompson. "We are well blessed in the attacking midfield department and we had a lot of options.
"In reality we're expecting Trinidad to be very aggressive at home.
"We know we will have to defend for longer than we would like and they will have possession for long periods. That's not to say we're looking to play in a defensive mode - we want to be on the front foot as much as we can,” Thompson concluded.
The Bermudans arrive in Port of Spain on Thursday night.
Meantime, young T&T defender Ancil Farrier says he’s gaining comfort in the T&T back line by each match and is hopeful of cementing a spot in the left back position. The former Naparima College player started against England. and then made a late appearance in Saturday’ 1-1 draw with Jamaica.
“The experience has been coming on. It’s not easy making the transition from College ball to the international stage but the process has to start at some point. It’s been a privilege for players like myself to play and work along with players like Dennis Lawrence. Playing against England was a tremendous experience and in time to come you will see the benefits of such an experience in players like myself. The coach (Maturana) has also worked hard with us to ensure that we have things compact in the defense and he continues to emphasize the importance of being strong at the back. He’s also tried to make us comfortable in the preparations.
“My aim is really to work as hard as I can and improve in every session and every match. On Sunday we know there’s nothing like taking Bermuda for granted because they will be coming to get points away from home and that can always be tricky for a host team. We know what our ambitions are and we will work towards that,” Farrier added.
The T&T continues preparation at the Larry Gomes Stadium on Wednesday and moves into camp at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Wednesday night.
Sunday’s game kicks off at 5:30pm at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya.
Bermuda 18-man squad
Timmy Figureido - Somerset Trojans
Jason Williams - North Village Rams
Kofi Dill - North Village Rams
Omar Shakir - PHC Zebras
Kevin Richards - PHC Zebras
Marquel Waldron - PHC Zebras
Kris Frick - Somerset Trojans
Antonio Lowe - Dandy Town Hornets
Damon Ming - Bermuda Hogges
Reggie Lambe – Ipswich Town Academy
Meshach Wade - Hamilton Parish
Khano Smith – New England Revolution
Domico Coddington – Devonshire Cougars
Jemeiko Jennings - North Village Rams
Keishen Bean - North Village Rams
Kwame Steede – Devonshire Cougars
John Nusum – Philadelphia Kixxs
Ralph Bean Jr. - North Village Rams