Cuba Tops League C in CONCACAF Women Gold Cup

Assistant coach Hiram Hunte and Eartha Pond speaking to reporters at a post-match interview
Assistant coach Hiram Hunte and Eartha Pond speaking to reporters at a post-match interview

DESPITE some valiant attempts, playing in League C of the Road to Women Gold Cup,  Saint Lucia ended this season’s campaign on a losing note, going down to Cuba 4-1 on Tuesday in Group B at the Estadio Antonio Maceo in Santiago de Cuba.

Consequently, Cuba gained a first-place finish in the group with a perfect four wins from four matches. Saint Lucia end their RTWGC campaign in second-place in the group.

After defeating Guadeloupe 5-1 in a home game at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground [DSCG] last Friday (December 1), Team Saint Lucia had high hopes of ending their campaign in fine style.

Having lost 2-1 to the Cubans in a home game, at the DSCG, earlier in the tournament – Saint Lucia fancied their chances of upping their game in the return leg.

But, it was not to be as Team 758 came up against a robust Cuban side that converted three goals in the first half, before setting up a strong defense to completely block out the visitors from the game.

Eunises Nunez scored in the 8th minute and then doubled her team’s advantage 2-0 in the 14th minute. Cuba then stretched their lead to 3-0 in the 36th minute when Elisabet Espinosa tucked home a shot from the right side of the Saint Lucian  goal.

Saint Lucia refused to throw in the towel, and they pulled a goal back in the 63rd minute with a good finish from Racquel John at the edge of the box to make it 3-1.

But Cuba proved to be too strong and the scoreline read 4-1 in the 73rd minute when Nahomi Aguilar converted from the penalty spot after a handball in the box.

There was a notable change in Team Saint Lucia’s line-up as the dependable and astute professional player Eartha Pond was shifted from her regular position as a defender to the mid-field in a switch with skipper Elaisa Marquis.

Did the technical unit ‘miss a trick’ on this occasion or did that move ‘back fire’ on Team Saint Lucia?

Prior to the final encounter versus Cuba, the technical unit and support staff at the Saint Lucia Football Association [SLFA] had been putting the players through a well -coordinated and rigid training regime, in preparation for the tournament.

Team Saint Lucia’ s performance in the competition at that stage were as follows:

Game #1 vs. Cuba, at the DSCG – Cuba 2 – SLU1

Game # 2 vs. Guadeloupe, (away match) – SLU 5 Guadeloupe 1; Arnica Louis netted four goals in that match.

Game # 3 vs. Guadeloupe, at the DSCG – SLU 5 – Guadeloupe 1.

At a media briefing, last week, SLFA Technical Director Ces Podd said he was pleased with the hard work the players have been putting in. He was equally heartened by the progress they have made, thus far, with some players transitioning from the junior league to senior national representation.

“This tournament will highlight how far our women’s game has come and …as it comes at the end of Women’s Football Month, it is important that we go out there and perform well,” declared Podd.

Assessing the ability of the team players and their overall buildup, he added: “There is an understanding of the Saint Lucian ‘game plan’ and the playing philosophy. And included in that, is hard work and dedication.”

Podd further noted, “The reason we’ve been able to establish a playing formation and a playing philosophy is because of the consistency of you attending training sessions and being able to take in what you’ve been coached.”

Though the final result does not reflect the true grit and determination of the players, they are a young team in transition and must be able to muster the courage to bounce back, and bounce back strongly enough to become a formidable team in the reckoning in regional football and beyond.

Speaking to reporters, in a post-match interview after last week’s match versus Guadeloupe, Assistant coach Hiram Hunte, weighed in on the team’s chances against Cuba.

He was optimistic that if the players gel well and play to the plan they could have given the more seasoned Cuban team a good run.

He recalled that in the last game against Cuba, “the girls had a good outing, but it was rather unfortunate (to let in) that goal in the 90 + 3 minutes.”

Moving on, Hunte felt that “we will come up with a good technical assessment of them (Cubans) and what we’re going to do to manage their strengths and take opportunities of their weaknesses.”

He was hoping that the technical staff would be able to “implement” its game plan and players would “understand the task at hand …because we understand this like a final if we win we come out on top of the group.”

However, with the final result and a review of the tournament, much will be asked of the technical unit about the latter decisions that they employed in switching key players in the game plan.

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