Internationals: “We Know We Can Compete Against Top Nations”
There was plenty to cheer about for Hornets on international duty this weekend, including debuts, goals and qualifications for Watford players representing their nations.
Adrian Mariappa's Jamaica kept up their fine CONCACAF Nations League form in the early hours of Saturday morning with a 2-0 away win at Antigua & Barbuda. It is now five wins from five for the Reggae Boyz in their group, with 20 goals scored and none conceded
The result also means they are guaranteed to top their group, and Mariappa has June's Nations League final championship and a potential World Cup play-off spot in his sights.
“Qualifying for the Gold Cup again is great and hopefully we can go step further and win it, but more importantly we’re now in an incredibly strong position to make the final round of the World Cup qualifiers,” said the defender.
“We haven’t qualified since '98 and each campaign it gets harder when you are battling against financial powerhouses such as the USA and Mexico. It’s still a long road but we’re confident we can make it, which will have a huge impact on the whole of Jamaica.”
Mariappa's Jamaica play Guyana in their final group game on Tuesday at 1am GMT.
Craig Cathcart and Northern Ireland drew 0-0 with the Netherlands in their Euro 2020 qualifier group, but could have won the match had Steven Davis not missed a first-half penalty.
The result means the nation are guaranteed third place, missing out on automatic qualification but having a shot to qualify for next summer's tournament through the playoffs.
“We feel a bit unlucky not to come away with a win on the night, if the penalty went in who knows how the game would have gone,” said the defender. “It shows how far we’ve come as a team, pushing the likes of Holland and Germany all the way in the games and feeling a bit disappointed not to come away with a win.
“It leaves us in a playoff position and we are full of confidence knowing we can compete against the top nations, who will ultimately be going to the tournament thinking they can win it.”
Elsewhere, Tom Dele-Bashiru featured for the first time for Nigeria Under-23s in a goalless African Cup of Nations Under-23 draw against South Africa.
The midfielder had not featured in his national team's first two matches this break, but came on for the last 16 minutes in their final match, having spoken recently of how important his Nigerian roots are to him.
“It was a great honour to have made my Under-23 debut, a moment I'm very grateful for,” he said. “Unfortunately we didn’t qualify which was disappointing but everyone gave their all and we must bounce back.”
Ryan Cassidy also played 86 minutes for the Republic of Ireland Under-19s on Thursday in a narrow 2-1 loss to Switzerland in a UEFA Under-19 Championship qualifier.
On Saturday, the young forward came on as a substitute and scored the final goal for his national side in a 13-0 win against Gibraltar in the same competition.
“For me, to score for Ireland is probably my greatest achievement as growing up I’ve always wanted to score for my country,” said Cassidy. “It means so much to me, when I was growing up I was going to the games in the old Landsdowne Road with my dad. He is the first person I texted when I got in after the game, because for me making him proud is the biggest privilege I can have in life.
“Also for my family, to represent them playing for Ireland is a great honour. The goal was a cross into the box, I beat the offside trap and buried it into the bottom corner. I’ve scored that for my uncle Bryan, who passed away in 2018, and for me that goal is for him.”
Cassidy will likely feature again for Republic of Ireland Under-19s against Austria on Tuesday at 1.30pm GMT.