An over-relaxed approach and failure to carry out instructions are being blamed for the country’s disappointing exit from the ongoing Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Caribbean Cup.
Head coach of Antigua & Barbuda Benna Boys, Rolston “Debu” Williams, pointed to both as contributing factors in the team’s heartbreaking one-nil loss to Haiti when they met in the feature contest of a Group One double-header at Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG) on Tuesday.
According to the former defender, the team lacked aggression throughout the fixture. He also dismissed suggestions that the Benna Boys were found wanting in the midfield area.
“I thought that we were quite lackadaisical in our approach and that was not the game plan. We had emphasised quite clearly that we have to pressure them high up and don’t give them the opportunity to play out, but the guys yesterday (Tuesday) were not switched on. I just think we switched off,” he said.
“I don’t think we were aggressive enough. We played the Trinidad team with the same midfield and we were quite dominant. We were able to keep possession and the difference was that we were much more aggressive (in the second half),” the coach added.
Williams, who succeeded Tom Curtis following his resignation over a month ago, added that the team’s performance serves as further evidence that having capable outside assistance is essential to the international success of the team.
“If we want to reach the level of the Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Haitians, then we definitely are going to need the services of the international players. They bring something different. They bring more focus, more professionalism to the team, and they bring leadership quality to the team, and so therefore the whole atmosphere, the whole environment is totally different when these players are around,” he said.
“Jamaica has a population of maybe 2.5 million people and they didn’t play with all local players; majority of the players who are overseas-based played and Trinidad was the same. But we see now they are using more locals but you see they are struggling, so I don’t care what anybody says we definitely need the services of the overseas players.”
The coach, who said he would now turn his attention towards his local Asot’s Arcade Parham FC, also had something to say to the critics.
“A lot of times, things don’t go right but you don’t find the pundits having any criticism so I am expecting that. We didn’t get the win so there will be a lot of criticism. People see things when they have already happened, but we can’t before it happens and that’s the bottom line,” Williams said.
“I don’t think that the Antiguan public can say that they didn’t see organisation in the team and that they didn’t see a sense of purpose in terms of what the coaches are trying to achieve, and I think that it has been a long time since we have seen the team pass the ball the way they passed the ball in this tournament. There were a lot of questions about our players’ technical ability and I thought that we brought out something different in the team this tournament,” he added.
A skillful individual effort by Peguero Jean Philippe within the opening 20 minutes put the Haitians ahead and, in the end, was enough to kill the hopes of the listless Antigua & Barbuda squad.
Philippe, on the edge of the penalty area in the 19th minute, lifted the ball over the head of one defender before slotting the ball past the advancing Molvin James in goal for the Benna Boys.
The defeat means that the hosts finished with three points and third in the four-team group, while Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti advanced to the next round of matches.