Barbados go giant-hunting

Much like mixing a finely-blended tropical cocktail, Barbados coach Eyre Sealy is attempting to ensure that the elements and ingredients in his Bajan Braves side are just right before the start of qualifying for South Africa 2010.

Barbados, an island of just over 150 square miles in the Lesser Antilles area of the Caribbean, is one of the more formidable island nations lining up in the first round of regional qualifying. Ranked 142nd in the world, the Bajans are in fact the only one of the 19 island teams involved in the opening series of CONCACAF qualifying to have reached the finals of last year's Caribbean Cup.

"Here in Barbados we always manage to produce very good talent," coach Sealy, in the country's top job for three years, told FIFA.com. "Our problems are not on the pitch but in the area of discipline, funding and organisation. Even so, we have a good blend of players available at the moment."

Availability is the operative term for coach Sealy and his Braves before their two leg series with Dominica. Excited about up-and-coming teenage prospects from the island like Reynaldo Marquez, Mario Hart and Brett Carrington, Sealy knows full well that success hinges on the availability of some big overseas names with traceable blood connections to Barbados.

"We have some good young talent coming up here on the island and they represent a good future for us," said the coach, charged with the task of matching the semi-final group run Barbados pulled off in 2002. "But the availability of some foreign-based professionals is massive to our hopes. We have made contact with a number of guys in England so far and we are hoping and waiting to hear back."

Harewood and Boyce targeted
If availability and choice conspire in Sealy's favour, the squad could have more than 11 players from overseas professional leagues, this after the Barbadian FA spent significant time and moneys trying to locate first generation Barbadians living and playing abroad.

Among those contacted is one Marlon Harewood of Aston Villa, a 50-plus goal-getter and FA Cup finalist during his time with West Ham. Described by Sealy as "an outstanding player," the powerful big striker has three goals for the Villains this term and is widely respected in the Premiership for his pace and raw power. He has never played for Barbados, but at the age of 27, Harewood's hopes of earning a cap for the country of his birth, England, are growing slim.

Also contacted by the Barbados FA are Emerson Boyce of Wigan Athletic, Louie Soares (Aldershot Town) and his brother Tom of Crystal Palace. Paul Ifill (also of Crystal Palace), Mark McCammon (Doncaster Rovers) and Neil Harvey (Retford United), all three of whom represented Barbados in last year's Caribbean Cup finals, are expected to be in the squad.

Barbados should realistically get the better of tiny Dominica, ranked 188th, in their first series on 6 February (away) and 26 March (home), but it is in their next test that the overseas stars would become most crucial: a date with the mighty USA.

David v Goliath
The last time the two met in FIFA World Cup qualifying, the US hammered their island neighbours 11-0 over two legs. Even so, Sealy believes that with six or seven professionals in the side to complement his local lads, anything is possible.

"We know they are strong," Sealy said of the States, who recently beat Sweden 2-0. "But football is played on the day. If we put the right squad together, I really think we can beat them... especially in our home leg. Really though, we are only thinking about Dominica at the moment."

Last weekend, in what was Barbados' first game in over nine months, Sealy's men beat Antigua and Barbuda 3-2 in a friendly in which they twice came from behind.

"It was our first game as a team since March of last year [a 0-0 draw with Guatemala]," the coach reflected. "So I can't really be unhappy with the result. We can't be conceding three goals and our defence is a primary concern at the moment."

Captain Norman Forde scored a free kick and set up the other two goals on the day for Jonathan Straker and Dwayne Lynch.

It was a good result for a Barbados team currently playing with nary a full-time pro in the side. With a little reinforcement in the form of a clutch of English all-stars, the underdog Bajan Braves may have more than just courage and enthusiasm to load in their slingshots when the giants come calling.