BELIZE CITY, Mon. Nov. 21, 2016–With Guatemala out of the competition, having been suspended by FIFA, 5 Central American U-17 national teams are presently competing in Costa Rica for 3 berths in the CONCACAF Qualifiers, which take place in mid-2017 in Panama, for World Cup Russia 2018. Honduras and Costa Rica are still undefeated, and are considered the powerhouses in this UNCAF group, but, with two games remaining against El Salvador tonight and Nicaragua on Thursday, Belize still has a chance at qualifying for the third spot. The odds are tremendously against our boys, who, unlike their UNCAF counterparts, have not benefited from tough international friendlies in preparation for this qualifying tournament. It would be a huge achievement, well beyond our realistic expectations, if they should make it to the next round. Already, with fairly respectable losses to CONCACAF champion Costa Rica, 4-0, and powerhouse Honduras, 3-1, our Belize U-17 has claimed a small measure of respect, unlike years past when the scores were far more lopsided. In fact, they were 1-1 at the half against Honduras. (See concacaf.com article, “Central American U-17: Honduras, Costa Rica remain perfect,” elsewhere in this issue.)
Back in November, 2014, El Salvador crushed Belize, 7-0, in a similar UNCAF qualifying match in Liberia, Costa Rica. We await today’s results. Stand strong, Belizean youths!