For many years now Bermuda has been relying on a young crop of players to bolster its women’s football (soccer) program, and they are poised to reap the rewards in what will be an action-packed 2022, according to CONCACAF.
It said the woman behind putting those building blocks into place is Head Coach Naquita Robinson, who will guide Bermuda in both the CONCACAF W Qualifiers next month against Jamaica and Cayman Islands and the 2022 Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship.
“What we started doing in 2015 was to use our younger players to enter into these older tournaments,” Robinson told CONCACAF. “At the Under-15s, the players were 12. At the Under-17s, they were 14 and at Under-20s they were 17. Now, those same players are playing in the senior team and they’ve had so much experience.
“With the extra matches, we’re training more, we’re eating better, we’re doing things now for the future,” she added. “That’s what’s exciting for me as a coach. I’ve been in this capacity for 10 years, and I’ve worked with this group since they were Under-15s.
“They were our benchmark team, our measuring tool,” Robinson continued. “We said, ‘Let’s see what they look like in 2022,’ not knowing of course at that time that we would have these types of competitions.”
CONCACAF said one of the key events was the 2018 CONCACAF Girls’ Under-15 Championship in which Bermuda took home the Division 2 title.
“Fifty percent of that team is now joining this senior team,” Robinson said. “That was part of the plan, to start them early at the U15s and play them at the U17.
Many of these girls will also be part of the U20s, so we’re hoping that they’ll have success at the U20s,” she added. “Mind you, most of them still have another Under-20 tournament after this one.”
Bermuda’s campaign in Group C of the 2022 CONCACAF W Qualifiers starts off with a massive test against 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup side Jamaica, CONCACAF said.
It said Robinson cannot help but smile that right out of the blocks her team gets a crack at one of CONCACAF’s giants.
“We’ve done our research, we’ve watched them play, we have footage on them,” she said. “They probably don’t have much on us, but I will say that since we’ve played them in 2018 [4-0 Jamaica win in Final Round of CWC qualifying], our team has gotten so much better. We said, ‘Yeah, throw us right into the fire. Forget warm-up matches, forget anything!’ If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”
Following the Jamaica game in Kingston on Feb. 17, Bermuda will play the Cayman Islands at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fl, before closing the group in April against the Dominican Republic and Grenada, CONCACAF said.
“We’re not taking anyone for granted,” Robinson said. “As coaches we believe in playing our strongest team, regardless of the opponent, and now we’re looking at playing front-foot football: Starting fast, starting strong and not waiting for a team to attack us.”
CONCACAF said while Bermuda will not be able to face Cayman Islands on home soil in Bermuda, there is still the hope that a first ever World Cup Qualifier can come to Bermuda in the finale against Grenada.
“Fingers crossed that our [Covid] numbers go down and in April we are able to play Grenada on April 12. That is our hope because it would be amazing. This group of girls deserve to play at home. They deserve to have the crowd,” said Robinson.
Once the February CONCACAF W Qualifiers are completed, CONCACAF said Robinson will shift her focus to the 2022 CWU20 in the Dominican Republic.
“Not only will 12 players from the Senior Team also be available to Robinson at the CWU20, but there will also be two players who will compete in this year’s CWU17 in addition to the CWU20 and W Qualifiers,” CONCACAF said.