Team placed fourth in CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championships
Team Bahamas was on the cusp of qualifying for the Beach Soccer World Cup in Dubai, but a goal by Mexico with 54 seconds left in regulation broke the hearts of the hosts and their fans on Saturday. Mexico won the match 3-2 in the semifinals of the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Beach Soccer Championships to punch the second ticket to the 2023 FIFA (International Football Federation) Beach Soccer World Cup, set for November 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The Bahamas settled for fourth place after falling to El Salvador 3-2 last night. The tournament wrapped up last night, but Team Bahamas and their fans will not forget the semi-final match against Mexico.
The Bahamas’ head coach, Alexandre Soares said that the Mexico game was a good and competitive match against the third ranked team in CONCACAF.
“We need to play more and get more experience, but we were amazing in the tournament. We played at a high level. We had a possibility to win against Mexico, but they scored three times,” Soares said.
The Malcolm Park Beach Soccer Stadium in Nassau, New Providence, was loud on Saturday as Bahamians came out in full support for their team. The Bahamas had the momentum in the third period which they started down 2-1. They kept attacking the Mexican’s goal looking for the equalizer and possibly more. The Bahamas eventually got the ball past Mexican goalkeeper Gabriel Macías on a header from Wood Julmis for the 2-2 scoreline at the 6:45 mark. Julmis was on the back post to get the header on a Lesly St. Fleur shot.
The game appeared to be going into extra time and possibly penalty shoot-out as either team could not score. Macías saw an opening in The Bahamas’ wall after he and his defenders tried to find scoring options under the minute mark. Macías got a well-placed kick that went to the bottom right corner of the goal and past Bahamian goalkeeper Michael Butler to put them up 3-2.
“Macías is one of the best goalkeepers in the region. He did not have a shot in the second period and the one time we gave him the space. He punished us for it,” Butler said.
The Bahamas tried to find another equalizer, but they were unfortunate in their endeavors as their World Cup dreams were put on hold for another two years. The Bahamas’ captain, Christie said that it was a very somber locker room after the game.
“The team was very prepared and wanted to win but, unfortunately, we lost the game in the final minute. … It is heartbreaking because we worked so hard for so many months preparing and training and take time off from work and be so close just 54 seconds left before going into overtime with the momentum in our favor. Unfortunately, one silly mistake and the game is over,” Christie said.
Christie was happy with the fans’ support and looking forward to the fans coming out and supporting them in the future.
It was a rough start for The Bahamas in the semi-final matchup against Mexico. Jean ‘Sunny’ scored an own goal at the 8:18 mark to put Mexico up 1-0 in the first period. At the 2:39 mark in that same period Edgar Portilla put Mexico up 2-0 at the 2:18 mark on a free kick.
Butler scored a goal of his own in the second period at the 1:17 mark for the Bahamas’ first goal of the game to cut into the deficit 2-1.
“It was an emotional goal,” Butler said. “I wanted the fan to get behind us and it always starts with me. I’m starting to realize that I am one of the core members of the team so that goal was huge.”
It was the second time the two teams faced each other. Mexico won the first meeting in the group stage 5-4.
The Bahamas made history on Friday past when it became the first English-speaking Caribbean nation to make the semi-final in the history of the tournament. They upset defending champions Panama 4-2 to set up the semi-final matchup with Mexico.
Christie liked that the younger guys like James Thompson and the Julmis brothers Evelt and Wood stepped up in the tournament.
“It is about the younger generation and the new guys coming up. I tip my hat off to them,” Christie said. We have three of four guys that are 21- and 22-year-old players that are playing at a high level against experienced teams and players. It shows we have a very bright future in beach soccer. The team is improving. We no longer go to tournaments to compete, but we go to win. We are now considered one of the top teams and threats in CONCACAF. It shows the growth in the sport and team. We want to be a powerhouse in the region.”
The United States of America won the tournament with a 5-0 victory over Mexico in the final last night.
This is the third time in 10 years The Bahamas hosted the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championships.