Antigua undeterred by Caribbean Cup challenge

Antigua & Barbuba's Akeem Thomas (yellow jersey) in Caribbean Cup action against Trinidad & Tobago on October 12, 2014. (Photo: Allan V. Crane)

ST JOHN’S, Antigua & Barbuda – Antigua & Barbuda faces a daunting group campaign in the Caribbean Football Union Caribbean Cup, but head coach Rolston Williams has warned that his side will not simply roll over and play dead.

The Benna Boys will do battle in Group B against host Jamaica, Haiti and Martinique, all of which are previous Caribbean Cup champions.

And while Antigua boast no such past honors, Williams trusts that the squad’s confidence and positive approach would be an asset in the tournament, which kicks off in Montego Bay on Tuesday.

“We believe we can match any team in the Caribbean at this point in time, especially with the way we are playing and the type of players that we have so we are not afraid of any team,” Williams said.  “We just have to be ready for every game, we have to be consistent in our play.  What we are focussing on is our concentration, and concentration before individual performance. So definitely we are confident as it relates to going forward against any opponent.”

Antigua battle 2007 champion Haiti in its opener on Wednesday, clash with five-time champion Reggae Boyz on Friday, before winding up group play against 1993 winner Martinique on November 16.

All three matches will prove tough outings for Antigua, but Williams said the opponents were not unknown quantities.

“These are teams we have been playing over a period of time,” he pointed out.  “We know their style, we know how they play.  We’ve studied them so we know what to do.  We know what their strengths are and their weaknesses.  We understand what we have ahead of us and we are prepared for that.”

Antigua is aware of the challenges that lie before them, especially after narrowly scraping through to the finals, following an uneven showing in the second round qualifiers last month in Port of Spain.

Despite managing only a single win in Group 7, the Benna Boys finished second behind host Trinidad & Tobago and advanced on goal difference ahead of the Dominican Republic.

Williams noted that while Antigua remained in high spirits, it would not be taking any team for granted. 

“The ultimate goal is to qualify for the Gold Cup in the United States next year,” he stressed.  “However, we will not be underestimating the opponents, all of whom respectfully earned their right to be in the final eight.  All of them got through the earlier rounds to be there. So we have a lot of respect but we are also very optimistic about our chances going forward.

“We think that we have a chance of going all the way. However, the competition hasn’t started yet and we like to take one game at a time.  That’s our approach, not to look ahead but look at the first game, then the second game and then the third game and then we go on.”