BELIZE CITY–Whenever two elevens take the field, there is always hope from either side; but it helps for Belizeans to be mindful of the enormity of the task up ahead for our squad in its quest to try and qualify once again for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The 7 Central American countries have been divided into two groups for the upcoming UNCAF Copa Centroamericana or Central American Cup, which will be played in the U.S. for the first time in its 13 editions, from September 3 -13. Group A – Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama; and Group B – Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Belize plays Honduras on September 3, Guatemala on September 7, and El Salvador on September 10.
After a single round-robin, the top 2 teams from each group automatically qualify to the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, with the fifth place finisher, decided between the 2 third place teams, then entering a two-leg playoff with the fifth place finisher in the Caribbean Football Union’s Caribbean Cup for an additional berth in the Gold Cup.
Belize and Nicaragua are considered the “weak” teams in our respective groups, as evidenced by our positions in the most recent FIFA/Coca Cola World Rankings. (See below FIFA/Coca Cola World Rankings for the CONCACAF region. Bold is ours for Central American countries.)
Our Belize national team leaves today for the U.S., and they have our hopes and our prayers. Due to FFB “problems,” our preparation has not been the best, and our realistic hope from this sports desk is for us not to be embarrassed by any big scores. One negative will be the loss of defender Ian Gaynair for the first game, as Belize did not play any international friendly since the last Gold Cup, which would have allowed him to serve a one-game suspension due to two yellow cards.
On the plus side for Belize, our national team is once again led by coach Leroy Sherrier-Lewis, who steered the team to qualification for the last CONCACAF Gold Cup, but was unable to accompany the team on their trip to the U.S. in 2013. In the Central American Cup in Costa Rica in January 2013, Belize lost 1-0 to host Costa Rica; drew 0-0 with Guatemala; and clinched a spot in the Gold Cup with a 2-1 win over Nicaragua. American Ian Mork travelled as the head coach for the Belize national team to Gold Cup 2013 in the U.S., but did not return with the team, who lost 6-1 to USA, 1-0 to Costa Rica, and 4-0 to Cuba.
We are certainly the underdogs; but it’s eleven against eleven. Les’ go, Belize!!