The Cayman Islands played their third World Cup qualifying match Wednesday evening, 2 June, at the IMG Soccer Stadium in Florida against Aruba, where many local fans favoured Cayman to win.
However, it was Aruba, which is currently ranked 205th in the world according to FIFA, that came back to defeat 194th-ranked Cayman 3-1.
“The game started out well for us, our tactics and our approach was clear,” Cayman’s veteran footballer and team captain Wesley Robinson told the Cayman Compass. “We had more chances than them but we just didn’t capitalise. I really think we could have put the game away within the first 20 to 35 minutes.”
Cayman’s head coach Ben Pugh seconded Robinson, saying Cayman could have won if mistakes were not made. “I thought we started the game well, we had a good shape and restricted them even though they had more of the ball,” said Pugh. “We also created some very good chances and deserved to go ahead. Unfortunately as the game progressed we made some simple errors which led to two goals being scored.”
Cayman took the early lead after a penalty was given in the 31st minute, which Jonah Ebanks capitalised on.
Minutes later, another penalty was given, this time in favour of Aruba, but Cayman’s goalkeeper Albertini Holness set aside the shot, briefly keeping his team ahead until Aruba’s Joshua John scored from outside the box in the 40th minute.
Aruba’s Terence Groothusen then found the back of the net in added time, closing the first half 2-1 in Aruba’s favour. In the second half, Aruba’s John would score again, in what would be the final goal of the game.
Pugh added while the game didn’t go as plan, his team is progessing as they continue their World Cup competition. “Unfortunately that’s football and despite the loss and individual mistakes I’m still very proud of the effort the players put in,” he said. “These games are all a big challenge and are essential in the players learning. The intensity of these games are a different level as I’ve mentioned before, and the opposition have a number of professional and semi-professional players of which we don’t.”
Adding that his team was missing key players due to COVID-19 circumstances. “It is important we try and get as many players off island and playing at a higher level,” he said. “We also wanted to include a couple of players from Europe who would have made a difference but travel restrictions prevented us from getting them. Overall there wasn’t much in the game and it could have gone either way if we made less mistakes. We will learn from this and continue to move forward.”