New look Tridents take on Curacao tonight in World Cup Qualifiers Loop Barbados

The content originally appeared on: Barbados News

Barbados’ football revolution begins this evening as they face Caribbean neighbours Curacao in the opening fixture of the Concacaf Qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup at the Ergilio Hato Stadium.

The Tridents have been drawn in Group C alongside Curacao, Aruba, Haiti and St Lucia, and will compete in a home and away format for a place in the Third Round of the competition.

Barbados is the second-lowest ranked team in the group (177th), while Curacao is the second highest with a world ranking of 91st, just one place below Haiti.

Both teams had difficult campaigns in the recently concluded Concacaf Nations League.  Barbados were relegated from League B after losing each of their six matches, while Curacao narrowly escaped demotion from League A, finishing just two points above of the relegated El Salvador.

Romario Harewood (left) scored Barbados’ lone goal versus Curacao in 2016 when the Tridents won 1-0 at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex.

The last time two of these teams met was eight years ago at the Usian Bolt Sports Complex, where Barbados defeated Curacao 1-0, courtesy of a 69th minute goal by Romario Harewood.

Both teams have changed a lot since then, with Barbados having just three returning members from the 2016 squad: Hadan “Fatty” Holligan, Mario Williams and Ricardio Morris, all members of Premier League champions Weymouth Wales.

Weymouth Wales left back Andre Applewhaite is expected to lead the Tridents in their opening encounter of the Concacaf Qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Recently appointed head coach Kent Hall will be looking to draw on the experience of this trio along with seasoned players such as Akeem Hill, Ackeel Applewhaite, Nicoli Brathwaite, veteran utility player Romelle Burgess and captain Andre Applewhaite.

Burgess, a former national team teammate of Hall, has featured in World Cup campaigns since the Road to World Cup 2002 during his tenure at Southern New Hampshire University, therefore his experience should be an asset to a Tridents squad which is equally balanced with youth and experience, however unfamiliar with winning.

Hall has selected an uncapped goalkeeping trio of local lads Jireh Malcolm and Kevon Allsopp, along with Australian-based and former Barbados youth player Brandon Sumpter.

Sumpter, with his international experience in Canada, Dubai and Australia will likely get the nod over teenager Malcolm and Deacons FC Allsopp.

The Tridents will need to be very organized out of possession, as well as disciplined. Whoever coach Hall selects in his starting roster will need to be physically and cognitively competent without the ball, as Curacao is a very possession-oriented team.

Hill and Williams have played together all season as the central defensive pair for Weymouth Wales and they maybe an option due to familiarity and comfort, and this is further supported with the inclusion of captain Applewhaite who played at left back in each of Wales’ 18 matches.

In the midfield area, it is good to see the return of Sheran Hoyte, who was seemingly out of favour under coaches Russell Latapy and Orland Da Costa.

After a four year absence, Sheran Hoyte is back in national colours.

This season the Brittons Hill midfielder added goals to his game and can be a key figure in the middle of the park, alongside Holligan, and the dynamic Devonte Richards.

The midfield register includes two debutants in Brittons Hill FC captain Romel Bynoe and Kickstart Rush midfield magician Ethan Taylor, who had an outstanding debut season in the Barbados Football Association (BFA) Premier League.

Niall Reid-Stephen spearheads the attacking line, and he will be joined by overseas-based duo Khalil Vanderpool-Nurse (Dubai) and Tajio James (USA).

Exciting wide forward Nadre Butcher completes the forward unit and while he had a subpar performance in the Premier League, he has always produced exceptional performances in the national colours.

Curacao will be under the guile and tutelage of  the experienced, world renowned UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup winner Dick Advocat, and led by captain Cuco Martina, formerly of Everton FC and Southampton in the English Premier League, but now ply his trade for Dutch Eredivisie club NAC Breda.

Brandon Sumpter is likely to start in goal tonight for the Tridents.

Martina is the most-capped player on the squad, representing Curacao 63 times, and he is one of many high-profile players making up the Dutch Caribbean Island.

Vitesse goalkeeper Eloy Room remains a fixture in the squad with 48 caps under his belt.

Eredivisie pair Joshu Brenet of FC Twente and Sparta Rotterdam Rayvien Rosario are scheduled to make their debut against the Tridents.

Barbados will need to be mindful of forward Rangelo Janga who has scored 18 times in 38 games for Curacao and his strike partner Kenji Gorre who has scored just three times from 20 games but is a menace to any defender.

The match is schedule to begin at 7:30 p.m.

The Squad.

Goalkeepers: Brandon Sumpter, Kevon Allsopp, Jireh Malcolm

Defenders: Akeem Hill, Andre Applewhaite, Ricardio Morris, Romelle Burgess, Zachary Applewhite, Shay Prescod, Mario Williams

Midfielders: Ackeel Applewhaite, Devonte Richards, Elijah Downey, Ethan Taylor, Jaron Oughterson, Nicoli Brathwaite, Hadan Holligan, Romel Bynoe, Sheran Hoyte

Forwards: Tajio James, Nadre Butcher, Khalil Vanderpool-Nurse, Niall Reid-Stephen