The Cayman national football team is putting its finishing touches to its preparations for the big World Cup game next week.
They meet Bermuda in the second leg of the World Cup qualifiers having drawn 1-1 there last month.
If Cayman win – or even draw 0-0 – they’ll go through to meet Trinidad and Tobago in the next round. The match will be at the newly refurbished Truman Bodden on 30 March.
The Cayman squad went to Jamaica for six days yesterday for it final training camp. They’ll play a practice match against top side Harbour View tomorrow night in Kingston and possibly Waterhouse or Portmore again on Sunday morning before flying home.
Cayman lost 2-0 to another quality Jamaican side, Portmore United, at North Side on Sunday night but came away with a lot of credit. Portmore are arguably Jamaica’s best side and after going behind early to goals by Roen Nelson and Anthony Bennett, Cayman showed plenty of resolve under the leadership of centre back Tom Elliot.
Cayman’s technical director Carl Brown said: ‘This training camp is an ideal opportunity for the players to spend some time together and gel a bit more and as well as fine tune, finalising all the things we have to do. It will also improve the mood of the players.
‘The players are growing. The Portmore match was a great indicator of what they are capable of. I’ve always expressed the view that if you look at the level of talent we have it’s only because of the lack of exposure that they have not been able to fully develop. When we expose them to this level of competition we will see the best of them.’
Fitness coach Thiago Cunha said: ‘I think the players are at a high level of fitness. If you saw the Portmore match you would have seen the way they finished the game, putting pressure on them.
‘We will work mornings and afternoons in Jamaica where we have about four or five players that we really have to work on, including Dion Brandon, because their fitness level is not high.’
Striker Richard Grant scored the vital away goal in Bermuda. He was satisfied with his form on Sunday. ‘I played against Portmore with a lot of confidence.
‘Coach Brown always tells us to keep possession, knock it around, play as a team and fight as a team. So I think we’ve improved. From a lot of games we’ve been playing we’ve learned something daily by listening to the coach. We’ve been working real hard.’
Cayman tend to concede early goals and must ensure they don’t do that this time.
Grant added: ‘We always seem to give goals early goals so that’s something that we have to work on to stop that. We’ve worked hard on our set plays too. Last night we were doing them a lot. We were getting kind of confused in between, but we’re getting there.
Brown added: ‘The fact that we went down early by two goals brought something out of the team. Their character came to the fore. That’s what’s making me happy. I’ve seen teams go two down and go to pieces.
‘We didn’t do that last night. That has become a mark of the team, to stand up and fight. We did that against Bermuda, fought throughout 90 minutes. Against Portmore they regrouped and that’s the best I’ve seen them play together.’
Brown is appreciative of the patience of the fans who have seen four losses in total in recent friendlies against Jamaican clubs. Last time it was Boys Town, Brown’s former club.
‘It was encouragement from the start. And that is what we need. It was critical for the fans to be a part of it. Last night we saw again the colours of Jamaica, black, green and gold, but we need to see the red shirts and the red and white of Cayman more.
‘This is for them. Every night we get out there for the Cayman people. They need to be out there in numbers and get out and cheer as hard as the Jamaicans were cheering.’
Cayman trained at Truman Bodden on Monday night
When Cayman take on Bermuda absolutely every seat will be accounted for. There will be no standing permitted either.
All World Cup games are seated only. No one is allowed to stand. Every ticket has to have a gate number, section number, row number and seat number. The capacity is 3,077 and under no circumstances will that figure be topped.
Jeffrey Webb, president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, emphasised the crowd restrictions for this game.
He said: ‘It’s very important for us that we communicate this to the public. We want everyone to get their tickets as early as possible so that there’s a chance that you can sit down with your family.
‘The Truman Bodden pitch is more or less ready already. The pitch is laid, floodlights working and it just needs to be marked out and posts put in. The squad trained there on Monday night before leaving for Jamaica next morning.’
Tickets range from $10 in the East Stand to $25 in the West Grandstand. For those wanting to really splash out, there is a small VIP area where tickets are $80. Tickets are available at all Western Union locations and also Funky Tangs, Captain’s Bakery, Digicel (the chief sponsors) and Galleria.
Webb is hoping to not have to sell tickets on the day. ‘FIFA is asking that we pre-sell as many tickets as possible because any time you have a large gathering there is always the possibility of a hiccup. This is different for the Cayman public because everyone is so used to paying on the day.
‘We’re basically all set to go. The field is looking magnificent and the facilities are great. And of course, restoring our sports facilities is part of the healing process.
‘It’s unfortunate that it’s one of the last things to be restored to fully get over Hurricane Ivan. So we look forward to the game.
‘Today we did a walk through of all areas at the Truman Bodden and we’re pleased with the progress that has been made. I must thank the Minister of Sport Mr Alden McLaughlin and also the ministry in preparing the venue. Sports is really a celebration of life and I hope on 30 March it will be a massive celebration for Cayman.