Barbados eager to host Caribbean Cup's Group 4
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- The eyes of Caribbean football will focus on Barbados for five days starting on Sunday as it hosts Group 4 play in the Caribbean Cup, the region's qualifying tournament for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.  Aruba, Dominica and the Dominican Republic round out the four-team group with a minimum of one berth in the competition's second round at stake.

Local organizers tell that they are ready and all systems are go as the country looks to make an impression on the regional football stage.  Barbados, which is 175th in the FIFA World Rankings, is fully cognizant of what is at stake.The players and fans realize that a good performance at home could see the national squad climb the rankings ladder.

Ronald Jones, President of the Barbados Football Association (BFA), captured the significance of the Caribbean Cup for his team and is optimistic that the youthful roster will do well.  "Barbados football is at the crossroads right now.  We made a decision earlier this year that we needed to say thank you and farewell to much of the older guard and infuse the team with younger skilled players," he said.

"These series of games will determine how that decision has paid off and with the confidence of our coach Colin Forde and the technical director (Julian Broomes) they expect the team to do well."

The 'Bajan Rockets' stiffest test is expected to come from the Dominican Republic, ranked 103rd in the world, in the last group match for each on Thursday.  The Dominicans participated in the first and second rounds of World Cup Qualifying, finishing with an overall record of four wins, two draws and two losses.  Erick Ozuna was the team's top scorer with five goals, two ahead of Jonathan Faña Farias and Inoel Navarro.

Aruba (#158) and Dominica (#174), however, are not to be overlooked.Aruba was eliminated from World Cup Qualifying at the initial hurdle by St. Lucia on penalties after completing their two-match series level at six goals apiece.  Dominica joined the competition in the second round, losing each of its four games -- dropping two decisions to both Panama and Nicaragua without scoring a goal.

The Caribbean Cup encounters will be played at the famous Kensington Oval, which is world renowned as a venue for some of the greatest moments in cricket history.  The Oval was redeveloped in 2007 for the Cricket World Cup and occupies just over 12.5 acres of land (3.5 acres constitutes the playing field).  The pitch has an unparalleled reputation for its high quality.It was constructed with 2.5 feet of graded layers of stone, gravel and sand, covered with a Bermuda grass hybrid, allowing the field to drain rapidly even after torrential rain.

The move to Kensington puzzled some local pundits, who were accustomed to the Barbados National Stadium being the home ground for Barbados.  There was concern that the local team was giving up valuable home advantage. Construction work at the stadium that started in August to remodel and relay the track and field surface halted any prospects of utilizing the facility for Caribbean Cup action.

Julian Broomes, the Barbados Football Association technical director, assured the public that Barbados won't be losing any advantage and, in fact, should play better at Kensington.  "It is a really beautiful surface and the players so far seem to love it.  It's a bit quicker than the National Stadium and a lot more even bounce."

Barbados expects football hungry fans to come out in the thousands to support their team and the tournament.  The next step in the process of obtaining a coveted place at next year's Gold Cup is on the line and there's everything to play for.