End is nigh for Anguilla

There is nothing hyperbolic about just how herculean a task Anguilla face on 26 March. Having lost their first leg 12-0 to a ruthless and well-drilled El Salvador in February, the mountain they now have to climb could not be steeper, taller or more fraught with peril and pitfalls.

"Things just went totally wrong for us in that first leg," Colin Johnson, who took over from Kerthney Carty after the drubbing in San Salvador, told FIFA.com. "Our team had not been together for very long and it was like eleven individuals, not a team, on the field."

Should they somehow manage to recover this massive deficit, it would be without question the greatest reversal in the history of FIFA World Cup qualifying. However, it is more likely that the chastised islanders will be aiming for a measure of respect.

"I must be honest and say I don't think we can win the game, let alone score 13 goals and overhaul the deficit," Johnson said with an air of understandable resignation. "But I do expect an improvement from my players this time around. We need to show some pride and that we are not just some walkover team. We have more ability than we showed in the first leg."

Johnson, previously coach of the Anguillan women's national team, points to a lack of cohesion in the team as a reason for the rout. According to the boss, most of the players flew in from England on the eve of the contest and had no time to build an understanding or chemistry.

"Most of the players are coming from the lower leagues in England," the coach added. "But they didn't come in to Anguilla for a camp before the game, but instead flew directly to El Salvador. As a result they never got the chance to learn about each other and to come together as a unit."

Anguilla, a Caribbean island of just around 14,000, lacks a stadium suitable for international competition. As such, their 'home' leg on the 26th will be played in the USA in Washington DC. The large Salvadoran population on the East Coast of the USA is bound to make the game feel like yet another away fixture for the intrepid islanders.

Ranked just above Bhutan and the Cook Islands in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, the Anguillans are well near the bottom of the global charts. And the difficulty of motivating a team for a series in which they are 12-0 down at the half is, perhaps, the coach's toughest task.

"You really just have to try to raise their spirits a little bit," Johnson said. "Although it may be hard to believe, we did some things right in the first leg and I need to let them know about those things rather than all the problems that we had. I am certain they will put up a far sterner fight this time."

Food for thought
Focussing on the positives suits the naturally optimistic Anguillans, and they admirably look to the future rather than curse their current state.

"Now we know that we need to find a better blend of overseas and local-based players so that we can build more of a competitive team for the future," Johnson said. "Also, this year we found a lot of connections and possible players for the future based in the USA, England and here at home. Maybe this defeat and this year will prove the impetus for us to move forward in the future."

As it looks now, Anguilla can only look to the future. Facing almost certain elimination and an uphill struggle for respectability in the region, the islanders seem committed to not being humbled again.