Courtesy of Observer Sports
Antigua and Barbuda took an historic step Friday night when the senior national football team beat Haiti 1-0 to advance to the semifinals of the World Cup Qualifiers.
In a keenly contested match, Kerry “Arab” Skepple, who came off the bench, found the back of the net in the 83rd minute.
The relatively quiet crowd at the Sir Vivian Cricket Grounds exploded with excitement and then began a nervous watch of the clock.
At the whistle, history had been created.
The marksman, meanwhile, was cool in victory.
“Coming onto the field, I was focused on the job the coach (Tom Curtis) instructed me to carry out,” Skepple said.
“We are all a team and I have a part to play, and tonight I came in and played my part,” he added.
Team Antigua and Barbuda advanced from Group F with an unblemished record after five games, 15 points and 25 goals, with one game left to play.
The other Group F teams are Curacao and the US Virgin Islands.
The Antigua and Barbuda team moved on to round two, in Group A, where they will face powerhouses Guatemala, Jamaica and USA.
Antigua and Barbuda’s euphoria was in contrast to the mood in the Haitian camp on Friday night.
Dominique Henri-Roberts, who is part of the management staff, said the
With victory in the quarterfinals already secured, team captain George “Sour” Dublin was looking forward to the next phase, which starts in June 2012.
“I’m really enjoying this win. It was really important for Antigua and Barbuda to move on,” Dublin told reporters.
“We know we’re gonna be under immense pressure. (This will be a)good opportunity to prove ourselves and show the world we have good footballers in Antigua,” a calm Dublin said.
His cool facade was a standout in a crowd that was wild with joy. The significance of the night would later be captured by Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who was at the game.
“Congratulations to Team Antigua Barbuda. You have made every man, woman and child in Antigua and Barbuda exceedingly proud and I am personally exceptionally elated. There is no stopping now from further creating history,” PM Spencer said in a media statement.
“This historic goal will translate to maximum exposure for Antigua and Barbuda when we meet the teams in Group A in June of next year. This type of exposure for our country is more than any tourism promotion dollar can bring to our nation at a time when our economy is struggling form the effects of a global recession,” the PM said.