NASHVILLE, Tennessee – On the road to qualifying for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Nicaragua played smart tactically, demonstrated unity and proved a difficult team to beat.
That wasn’t the same Nicaragua that lost to Martinique, 2-0, in its Group B opener Saturday.
“I think they were very nervous today,” said assistant coach Manfred Stephan, who filled in for the suspended Henry Duarte. “I know the team and they played much better in games in Jamaica, in Haiti. I think the victory for Martinique is OK. They made better chances and we made too many mistakes on the defense.”
It was hard for Stephan to pinpoint the reason for the uneasiness, but it led to mistakes and too much space between the lines, giving a capable Martinique side plenty of room to attack.
“At the beginning, all the players were very nervous and we had too great distances between the players from behind to the strikers,” Stephan said. “When we lost the ball, Martinique had many chances.”
In addition to Duarte, Nicaragua was without the key duo of midfielder Daniel Cadena and forward Juan Barrera, both serving suspensions.
The German-born Stephan didn’t use the lack of their presence as an excuse.
“I think that was no problem,” remarked Stephan. “The team was very well prepared for the match.”
Nicaragua dropped to 0W-0D-4L in four all-time matches and will face a stiffer test on Wednesday against Panama in Tampa, Florida. Stephan is confident, however, that after a few additional training sessions, an improved Nicaragua will be the result.
“I think the team will play better on Wednesday against Panama,” he finished. “They will learn from the training and play much better on Wednesday.”