The CONCACAF Nations League brought new chances to qualify to the Gold Cup for the minnows of the confederation. Some of them will play against stronger opponents than they used to play, especially when it comes to Caribbean sides that usually failed to progress at the Caribbean Cup qualifier.
One of the biggest sensations of the tournament is Montserrat, the team that was considered as the weakest national team in the world and now are getting closer to an upset.
Less than 5,000 people are living in Montserrat, a small island in the Caribbean that is under British rule for over than 400 years. Most of the Montserratian people are living abroad, after a volcanic eruption at the island destroyed most of it.
Montserrat played at the Caribbean Cup since 1991 but became a full member of FIFA in 1996. Their first international matches were huge defeats, and they faced double-digit scores more than a once. Their first wins were in 1995 when they defeated Anguilla twice at the Caribbean Cup qualifiers. However, they failed to repeat these results at the next round, when they conceded 20 goals in a doubleheader against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
The moment that made Montserrat national team more famous was in 2002. The Dutch producer, Johan Kramer, decided to arrange a friendly match between the two lowest ranked teams in the world, known as The Other Final. Montserrat, that was last according to FIFA World Ranking back then, faced Bhutan. Even though they were defeated 4-0, the film about this match rose the awareness about the team and its situation, including a FIFA funded renovation for the national stadium.
Almost two decades later, Montserrat is still on the bottom of the FIFA World Ranking, but things are changing. They managed to win a couple of times at the Caribbean Cup qualifiers, and they wished to make a decent campaign also during the CONCACAF Nations League qualifiers, despite the fact they were ranked at the 29th place among the teams.
They appointed the Scottish manager Willie Donachie, who represented Scotland in two World Cup and previously managed the national team of Antigua and Barbuda. To get a better squad, he looked for players with Montserratian descent. "There are Montserratians in England because of the volcano that caused many families to leave. It's my job to seek them out," said Donachie.
There were already players that were born abroad in his squad. The national team captain, Lyle Taylor, was born in Greenwich and is currently playing for Charlton Athletic. Taylor is the only player in the squad to play at the EFL, as nine more players are playing at the English non-football leagues. Another interesting name is Alex Dyer who was born in Sweden and is loaned now from his Swedish club, Elfsborg, to Lillestrøm of Norway.
Their CONCACAF Nations League qualifiers were completely shocking. In their opening match, Montserrat was on lead against El Salvador but conceded a goal at the 94th minute and was defeated 2-1. Afterwards, they managed to win three times against Belize, Aruba and Cayman Islands, the same amount of wins that the team had in the previous 25 years.
They are now waiting for the last results of the final round. They already secured their place in League B, the second level of the tournament, and they will have the opportunity to show that it wasn't a coincidence. The most optimist people will even dream about the right combination of scores that will give them a place among the top 10 and the 2019 Gold Cup spot.
No matter what will be, Montserrat is making history for real.