The Cayman Islands national football team played with a fire and competitiveness not really seen in previous World Cup qualifying matches which augurs well for next summer when the Digicel Cup finals may be held here.
Cayman ended a poor run of World Cup qualifying losses with a 1-1 draw against the Dominican Republic at the Truman Bodden Sports Centre on Monday. They were 1-0 down at half-time from a fine free kick until Scholars International striker Mark Ebanks scored a superb goal from range. It might have sparked a long needed revival and endorsed the faith technical director Carl Brown has shown in the youngsters, ignoring repeated calls to bring back older, established players.
Considering Dominica Republic beat Cayman 4-0 three days earlier at home, it was a perfect response to Brown’s pleas to show more self-belief and competitive edge. Coach Brown said after the game: “It was good to finish on a high. I’m sure it did a lot for the players’ confidence. I believe we are winners. This is a young team, average age only 22 and they need to start believing that they can play. Games like these will let them and do a whole lot for their confidence going forward.
“We’re looking at hosting the Digicel finals in June, so this was good experience for them and we hope to build on it. The whole team played well. It was amazing to see two goals like we did. The second half we came out one-nil down and it was good to see the character of the team. They came out and played a very good second half.”
Goalkeeper Miguel Pitta said: “For me and everyone else, it was a case of not getting beat. We wanted a victory or at least a point and that’s what we got. I feel they came here to win having beaten us 4-0 already so they didn’t expect us to come out like this. Apart from the free-kick they scored from I only really had to deal with one shot in the second half so they didn’t really trouble me.”
Dion Brandon is only 25 but already one of the senior players in the national side. Brandon had another stellar game in midfield. “I went out and gave it my best,” he said. “I think we went out and tried to make a difference. We played for a change.
“I think it was time for us to change the mentality of the Caymanian people, the public in general who underestimate us. But I think we also underestimate ourselves. So far we haven’t really shown how good we really are, performance wise.
“We’re much better than the results we’ve been getting. With a little bit more exposure and experience I think the team will look good in three or four years. Like coach Carl said, it’s a very young team. I think me and Ian Lindo (the captain) command a lot of respect from the guys. We give respect and the guys respect us in return. We try to lead by example.
“If we host the Digicel finals, I think we can get much better results if we keep the team together and continue to train. But if we fail to prepare then we’re going to prepare to fail. If we can keep it together and train, I think seven months is sufficient time for us to get good results.”
In the meantime, football returns to Premier League action. At the TE McField Annex, Future play George Town at 5pm and and Cayman Athletic take on leaders Scholars International at 7pm. At the Bodden Town field, Elite face Roma United at 5pm and the 7pm match is between Bodden Town and Tigers.