Saturday, 19 May 2012 02:30
By Ian Magic Hughes
Antigua St John's - Manager of the Antigua & Barbuda national football team Fernando “Nando” Abraham has promised a win against the United States when the two teams meet next month.
Abraham made the prediction Friday during a press conference at the Heritage Quay Hotel to inform the nation of the team’s progress on the road to Rio, home of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The Benna Boyz leave for the IMG training facility in Sarasota, Florida next Friday. They will be met by seven English-based players for final preparations for the game against the US on June 8.
The seven have all played with the national team in the past, but not together at one time.
They are Justin Cochrane, Mickel Leigerdwood, Dexter Blackstock, Keren Murtaugh, Marvin McCoy, Josh Parker, and Mark Joseph.
They will join 18 other players for the trip to Sarasota.
“We will come out with three points,” the manager said. “I think we have the players with the capability to do so (win) and they are upbeat and ready.”
Coach Tom Curtis, while he did not promise a win, said he believes that the team will not be daunted when they come up against the United States.
This despite a number of losses in the United Soccer League, which is used as a developmental programme for the national team, as most of the national players are a part of the Barracuda set up.
In spite of the losses in the USL, the Cudas qualified for the finals of the CFU champions’ league, a first for any club in Antigua & Barbuda.
“We lost some games, and losing is never a result that we want to see, but this was always about development and there was some positives coming out of these games,” the coach said.
He noted, “The players are focussed and they have not been moaning or complaining, and we were able to see most of the players in game situation."
Curtis added, “It has been difficult (losing) but by the time the players reach the IMG training facility, they will definitely understand the magnitude of the moment.”
The national team faced serious financial problems in preparing for the semis. President of the ABFA Everton “Batow” Gonsalves told reporters that in light of financial constraints, nothing can stop the team from participating in this historical event.
“Sometime today (Friday) we should be able to finalize the financial arrangement to secure the first leg of the tournament,” Gonsalves said. “We are excited and the adrenalin is pumping and we are ready for the world.”
The president said he was heartened with the progress of the programme that will have the players ready for the initial game and the subsequent matches thereafter.
“We will be competitive,” he said. “I am heartened with the programme, and we will not be fearful going up against the USA, giants of football (in the region)."
Antiguans & Barbudans will have an opportunity to witness the matches, starting with the US game in Tampa and the subsequent games against Jamaica and Guatemala.
According to Derrick, the ABFA tried to organise a charter flight for Antiguans for the away games, but that has been a challenge in terms of the prices.
He said American Airlines has offered some group prices that should range from US$700 or US$800.
Arrangements have also been made with a number of hotels near the stadium in Tampa, as well as in Jamaica and Guatemala for the away games.
Mark Bowers will travel with the team to Sarasota, as well as an ABS TV crew member and a photographer.
After the US game, the Benna Boys return home to play Jamaica at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium four days later.
Before leaving for the US, the team will be on a school tour around the island to familiarize students with the players.