In a game in which The Bahamas senior men’s national soccer team was the underdogs, they pulled through and played spoiler to regional powerhouse Trinidad and Tobago, playing to a 0-0 draw on Saturday afternoon at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in New Providence.
The game was The Bahamas’ final group match in the FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) 2022 World Cup Qualifiers for the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) region. The squad managed to walk away from a tough Group F with one point – one draw and three losses in the round.
For Trinidad and Tobago, who was the favorite in the group, the loss means they will not finish first in Group F and their World Cup run for 2022 will come to an end. They will not advance to the second round, but rather it will be St. Kitts and Nevis.
It was a brilliant result for Team Bahamas.
Assistant coach for The Bahamas Kevin Davies, who is a former national team player, said it was a huge win for The Bahamas.
“It is probably up there with the 1-0 defeat of Jamaica at the under-23 level in 2008,” said Davies. “It is probably a top-five victory for the country in international play, especially against higher-ranked teams.”
In the FIFA/Coca-Cola Men’s World Rankings, Trinidad & Tobago is ranked at number 103, while The Bahamas is at number 201. It is the first time that The Bahamas has played to a draw against a country nearly 100 positions higher in the rankings on the senior men’s level.
Davies was a part of the coaching staff in 2008 that helped The Bahamas take down Jamaica, 1-0, at the under-23 age level. The person who scored the lone goal in that match was Lesly St. Fleur.
In the match on Saturday, Trinidad & Tobago had several chances to score but The Bahamas’ 18-year-old goalkeeper Ian Lowe brushed off a 7-0 drubbing from Wednesday against Puerto Rico, to play the best game of his international career, recording a clean sheet. Lowe said that he and his teammates had to keep their heads up after that 7-0 loss to Puerto Rico.
“Getting beat 7-0 in Puerto Rico was definitely a tough one. They (Puerto Rico) were able to exploit us very quickly in that game. After that hard loss, we kept our heads up and learned from our mistakes. We knew coming into this Trinidad and Tobago game that they were the better team, but we did not let that get to us. We stayed mentally switched on long before the game started. We played our hearts out until the final whistle,” Lowe said.
As expected, Trinidad and Tobago’s attackers tried to get on the scoreboard within the first 15 minutes of the game. In the 14th minute of the game, Lowe had a fingertip save on a chip shot, getting just enough on it to push it away. Lowe said his early saves helped him to gain confidence.
“The first save I had definitely was a boost of confidence to motivate me to keep pushing and keep pushing my teammates,” Lowe said. “This game will go down in The Bahamas soccer history books for sure and I am happy that I was able to represent my country. There were several times that Trinidad and Tobago had chances but unfortunately, on their part they were not able to put them away.”
If there was a man-of-the-match, it was going to be Lowe.
There were some changes in The Bahamas’ defense from Wednesday’s game. They inserted veteran St. Fleur and Evelt Julmis for the injured Cameron Kemp and Jaelin Williams. Both St. Fleur and Julmis represented The Bahamas a few weeks ago at the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championships.
Davies said the main plan was to strengthen the defense and close up the middle.
“They did break us down once or twice, but they were not able to put away their chances. For the most part, we stuck to our game plan and was able to come out with the draw,” Davies said.
At the half, Davies said he knew that he and the coaching staff had to give the players some positive words, instilling confidence going into the next 45 minutes. He said he told them to take it one play at a time and stick to the game plan.
The team did just that in the second half, said Davies. In contrast to the first game in the group stage against St. Kitts and Nevis, The Bahamas got some shots on goal but was unable to score.
Trinidad and Tobago managed to get into the 18-yard box several times but like they did in the first half, Lowe and the defense cleared danger.
Trinidad and Tobago head coach Terry Fenwick spoke about the fight of Team Bahamas and how the result is a disappointment for his team.
“I have to hand it to The Bahamas. They had a game plan. They wore their hearts on their sleeves. They fought for every ball … it was a very disappointing result for Trinidad and Tobago and it has removed our chances. The quality of players that we have in the squad, it is a big disappointment,” Fenwick said.
He acknowledged that his team had chances but did not convert.
St. Kitts and Nevis will head to the second round after already accumulating nine points from three matches. They cannot finish any lower than first in Group F, even if Trinidad and Tobago defeats them in their next match. Trinidad & Tobago is in second position with five points that came from one win and two draws. Puerto Rico is in third position with four points with a win, a draw and a loss in three matches. Guyana is just above The Bahamas with three points – one win and two losses. The Bahamas will finish in fifth position with one point, having lost three matches and getting one draw. The Bahamas conceded 15 goals and was unable to score a goal in their four matches.
The other four teams will wrap up group play tomorrow.
Next up for The Bahamas will be a neutral matchup against Guadeloupe at the DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday July 3. That match will get underway at 4:30 p.m.