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Giants in early clash

Ezra Stuart

Giants in early clash

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For many football fans, tonight’s clash between last year’s two champion teams, Weymouth Wales and Barbados Defence Force (BDF), at the Wildey Football AstroTurf, is coming a bit too early in the KFC Champions Cup.
While this showdown in the Round of 16, which is slated to start at 8:30 p.m., would be the perfect final, the teams were always headed for a collision course once the draw was made prior to the start of the competition.
Wales, the reigning Digicel Premier League champions, and BDF, the current knockout kings, will now have to battle for a quarter-final berth, resulting in early elimination for one of the tournament’s favoured teams.
In the opening encounter at 3:30 p.m., Mackeson Brittons Hill, with a solitary knockout title in 2007, will have a tricky assignment against a Cosmos side who have a creditable record in knockout football, in an all-Premiership clash.
The middle game at 5:30 p.m. will see the high-scoring OKG Rendezvous oppose current Banks Beer Division 1 leaders Parish Land at 5:30 p.m.
Even though they are in Division 2, Rendezvous, with their star-studded line-up of past and present Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines national players, are regarded as one of the favourites to win the knockout title.
Rendezvous are coming off an 11-0 thrashing of Lodge Road last Sunday when cousins Shandel Samuel and Myron Samuel scored beaver tricks.
With Barbados captain Jeffrey Williams, Romano Snagg, Gregory “Lalu” Goodridge and the slimly-built Damal Francis orchestrating plays in midfield, Rendezvous have been creating goal-scoring opportunities at will. They also have another top midfielder Paul “Soup” Lovell and Chad Balcombe at their disposal.
However, their defence could be Rendezvous’ weakest area. Even though evergreen central defenders Wayne Sobers and Floyd Bailey are known for their ability to read the game, they tend to make up for their lack of pace by playing a smart defensive game, leaving the over-lapping to the younger, hard-tackling Jomo Brathwaite.  
Parish Land’s best known player is the versatile former Gall Hill and Notre Dame footballer Carlos Nicholls, and he will really have to inspire his teammates into believing that they are capable of beating their formidable opponents.
In the feature match, Wales, the only team to defeat BDF this season, will probably believe that they have a psychological edge on the army’s football recruits. However, in knockout football, where matches go into extra time and are sometimes decided on penalty kicks, nothing can be taken for granted.
The Carrington Village-based Wales will be without key striker Dwayne Stanford, who has been banned by the Barbados Football Association’s disciplinary committee for five matches because of a post-match fracas following their loss to Youth Milan last month.
However, teenaged striker Kemar Headley stepped up in his team’s last Premiership match with a hat-trick, while Anthony Forde, Ryan Grimes and Jason Ramsay, have all been chipping in with goals.
With injuries to their two goalkeepers, Terry Smith and Dario Weir, BDF were forced to summon former Barbados custodian Albert Brathwaite to stand between the uprights in last Sunday’s victory versus Brittons Hill.
The massively built Brathwaite, who now plays masters football, still looked very competent in goal and coach Asquith Howell can choose from defenders such as Paul Alexander, Jason Lovell, Teriq Highland, Kemar Chase, Ricardio Morris, Akeem Browne and Zico Phillips to protect him.
At the other end, veteran Julian Mottley, Omar Primus, Shawn Clarke and wing backs Jamar “Bird” Walters and Corey McCollin will be confident of once again keeping the BDF strike trio of captain Mario Harte, Jamal Chandler and Kyle Gibson at bay.
The midfield battle will see BDF’s Raheim Sargeant, Romario Harewood and Dwayne O’Garro up against Wales’ Jabar “Buggy” Greene, Kemar Bartlett and Carl Joseph.