AIKEN, South Carolina–Of all the results from Matchday 1 of 2019/20 Concacaf Nations League Qualifying, one that drew a lot of attention around the region was Saint Lucia’s 3-0 victory at Antigua and Barbuda.
More than three years after their previous meeting in which Antigua and Barbuda eliminated Saint Lucia from Concacaf World Cup Qualifying for Russia 2018 with a 4-1 win in Antigua (5-4 on aggregate), Saint Lucia was able to avenge that defeat in style.
“We were out for revenge, the guys were prepared and ready,” said Saint Lucia MF Zachernus Simon in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com.
“We knew it would be a battle and not easy, but our experience bore out and we started to take control of the match,” added Simon.
The decisive win has Saint Lucia sitting in 10thplace in the 34-team table, which would be good enough to earn qualification to the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup if CNL Qualifying was to end today.
The prospect of reaching a first-ever Gold Cup is serving as motivation for Simon and his teammates.
“We are on a quest for the Gold Cup. It is a great opportunity for Saint Lucia. We have a group of young guys like me who are hungry and want to play well so we can get scouted and move to bigger clubs. We are looking to make an impact,” said Simon.
Up next for Saint Lucia is a showdown with first-place Haiti on Tuesday, October 16 in Martinique. Simon knows it is the type of match in which a good result would send a clear message to the rest of the region.
“It’s a very tough challenge. Haiti is one of the top three sides in the Caribbean. We know that with a win or a draw we would make a big statement,” said Simon.
For Simon and many of the other Saint Lucia players, Concacaf has provided an important platform with the installment of the CNL. Simon, who currently plays college soccer at the University of South Carolina-Aiken, was a member of the Saint Lucia Under-17 team that qualified for the 2015 U-17 Concacaf Championship and had a chance to compete against the likes of Mexico and Costa Rica.
Those two contests ended in 6-0 and 4-0 defeats, respectively, but with the aid of the CNL, Simon believes teams like Saint Lucia will improve making for a more competitive environment within Concacaf at senior and youth team levels.
“The Nations League is a good tournament for teams like us. We don’t get enough exposure playing against big teams. I think with this tournament that the gap will close,” concluded Simon.