Traditionally one of the lower-ranked teams in North, Central America and the Caribbean zone, Bermuda have been making exciting strides of late. Trinidad and Tobago, a giant of the region who reached the FIFA World Cup™ in 2006, can surely attest to the Bermudans’ improvement as they were recently beaten by the Gombey Warriors for the second qualifying campaign on the trot.
Led by captain and former New England Revolution winger Khano Smith and USA-based goal ace John Barry Nusum, the island of just under 65,000 inhabitants is out of the running for a place in Brazil 2014, but they showed great improvement in their most recent outings. A draw against Group B leaders Guyana and a shock 2-1 win over Trinidad and Tobago on 7 October has seen the Atlantic islanders leap up the FIFA/Coca-Cola world ranking as well.
Bermuda were the best mover on the global ranking ladder for October, jumping up no fewer than 57 places in the competitive pecking order from 189 to 132. Their current position sees them approach their best-ever spot, 84th, achieved all the way back when the global ranking was established in 1993.
With two games against already-eliminated Barbados to go in the first round of group-stage CONCACAF qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Bermuda have no chance of reaching the next round. However, they can use these positive steps forward to build a more consistent base for the future. They are currently ahead of the likes of Congo DR, Congo and Vietnam and occupy 19th out of 35 possible positions in the CONCACAF zone.
“We have some good talent on the island,” was the assessment of captain Smith, who plays in the amateur leagues in Boston in the United States, having retired from professional football with multiple teams in Major League Soccer. “Good results in the early rounds of World Cup qualifying are a good start for us, but now we need to take that and roll it up into more consistent results, more consistently good play,” concluded the tall, speedy player who took over the mantel as Bermuda’s most famous sportsman following the retirement of former Manchester City striker Shaun Goater.
In their two remaining games, both at home against winless and goalless Barbados, Bermuda have the opportunity to take even greater strides up the world ranking. A pair of heavy wins would likely catapult them into the top 100, a position that could see them earn a potential seeded status in the draw for next year’s Caribbean Cup of Nations.
“There are a lot of knock-on effects from these two matches because we’re certainly looking for another big jump up the FIFA rankings,” said Mark Wade, Bermuda Football Association’s (BFA) player development committee chairman. “The higher we are in the rankings the more attractive we are to other teams looking for practice matches; it will keep us in the shop window. If we finish with two wins over Barbados I will have a wonderful Christmas. These games are still very important for us.”
With the talismanic Smith now 29 and Nusum in his 30s, both are entering the autumn of their international careers, opening the potential for a new generation of Bermudan talent to step up. Nahki Wells, Taurean Manders and Quadir Maynard are just a few of Bermuda’s faces for the future, all playing their football overseas and gaining valuable experience.
For a country that has never climbed into the top 50 of the FIFA/Coca-Cola world ranking, never reached a FIFA World Cup or CONCACAF Gold Cup, the aspirations are decidedly humble. However, with no place to go but up, and a penchant for knocking off their neighbours with big reputations, it could just be the start of something big for Bermuda.
The higher we are in the rankings the more attractive we are to other teams looking for practice matches; it will keep us in the shop window.