Country: Saint Kitts and Nevis
FIFA Ranking: 125
Nickname: The Sugar Boyz
Last official match played: Mauritius 1-1 St. Kitts & Nevis (22 August 2017, Mumbai)
Coach: Jacques Passy
Tucked into the Leeward Islands cluster of the Caribbean, the twin isles of Saint Kitts and Nevis is probably known more for their cricket than football. With the total population just crossing halfway that of a lakh, Sun, sand and sugar cultivation is what keeps the general Kittitain and Nevisian occupied; football not featuring in the primary list of activities of the general mass.
Funnily enough, it was only five months ago in March 2017, that St. Kitts & Nevis were perched 59 places above India in the FIFA Rankings, placed at their record best, 73rd, looking below the subcontinent nation who were struggling at 132nd. The summer seems to have completed a switcheroo of sorts, now India at 97th.
Sauntering through the first two rounds of qualification for the 2017 Caribbean Cup defeats to Haiti and French Guyana stopped their juggernaut last year. In 2017, two heavy defeats to European opponents, 0-5 at Armenia and 0-3 at Georgia has resulted in a steep drop to triple-digit figures.
Historically too, their presence has never been really felt on the international stage. Entry into the CONCACAF Gold Cup has been a distant dream, let alone the World Cup. However, in the 90's, a fourth placed and a runners-up finish is what they have in return in the regional Caribbean Cup, a competition they are yet to qualify again for since the 2001 edition.
The Sugar Boyz arrive on Indian shores in hope of impressing and unearthing a few new talents, with much of their regular starters unavailable through club commitments.
The competition comes during the start of the club season and the squad available at hand does not consist of the Sugar Boyz's superstars. Sans the likes of Leicester City youth product Harry Panayiotou, Atiba Harris and Louis Maynard, the twin matches give the island nation the best opportunity to blood in fringe players into the national set-up.
Head coach Jacques Passy will not be content with his side's performance in the 1-1 draw to Mauritius. Players like Vidal Hendrickson and Amory G'Vaune who were below par should face the axe. Vinceroy Nelson's pacy second half and Tishan Hanley's assist for Kimaree Rogers's goal should see them shipped into the starting XI.
|Players To Watch Out For|
Kimaree Rogers: The 23-year-old stood out against Mauritius with his late goal salvaging a draw. The winger is known for his skill and poaching attributes and can prove to be a menace on the right channel.
Carlos Bertie: The marksman plies his trade at Salvadorian club Once Municipal. The 21-year-old already had two senior goals to his name, making his international debut in 2016.
Head Coach Jacques Passy:
"You don't travel around the world only to compete but not win. Obviously, our first priority is to win. You don’t get the opportunity like this every day. The challenge lies in playing outside our continent, our comfort zone. The character of the players will be significant.
Five months back, we were 73 and India were much below than us. Now, it's the other way around. Frankly speaking, I don't prefer to buy the ranking formula. The game is played on the pitch and it'll always be so. Rankings are irrelevant.
The Indian hospitality has been excellent so far in all true senses. Whoever we've interacted to appeared so dearer and nicer to us, we can't think of complaining about anything. We're already started to feel at home."
GOALKEEPERS: Jamal Jeffers, Adolphus Jones, Zeleon Morton;
DEFENDERS: Gerard Williams, Petrez Williams, Justin Springer, Clyde Mitchum, Vidal Hendrickson, Xavier French, Errol O'Loughlin, Javaughn Brookes;
MIDFIELDERS: Tiran Hanley, Tishan Hanley, Raheem Somersall, Joash Leader, Kevin Benjamin, G'Vaune Amory, Yohannes Battice, Dennis Flemming, Dionis Stephens, Jayan Duncan;
FORWARDS: Carlos Bertie, Kimaree Rogers, Vinceroy Nelson, Delano Hodge, Evansroy Barnes.
Follow Swapnaneel Parasar on Twitter - @Swapyo