BELMOPAN, Tue. Sept. 8, 2015–The unthinkable almost seemed possible twenty-five minutes into the ball game tonight at the FFB Stadium, when Belize’s premier striker Deon McCaulay received a lovely pass inside the eighteen from Harrison “Cafu” Roches and unleashed a right foot blast that glanced off the right goal post and into the net past Canada’s keeper for the 1-nil Belize lead at the 25th minute. Overcoming the 3-nil game 1 loss to Canada seemed quite within reach; but the euphoria inside an almost packed stadium was abruptly quelled a couple minutes before intermission, when Canada’s William Johnson (44’) equalized on a grounder through a crowded eighteen that partly blocked the vision of Belize goalie Shane Moody-Orio. With the score tied at 1-1, even 3 more Belize goals would not be enough for us to advance, as with a 4-4 score, Canada’s away goal would then be the difference.
Nevertheless, the Jaguars were rejuvenated to start second half, and, with much closer “man to man” marking, began breaking up the scrimmage passing of the Canadians repeatedly, resulting in exciting attacks at goal; but after each build-up led to “oooh’s” and “aaah’s” from the cheering local fans, there was disappointment each time as it fizzled to an end with an errant pass or an interception by the Canadians. But there were still a few close calls that kept the crowd hopeful for a victory.
Eventually, the Canadians’ effective use of personnel concentration and spacing in their scrimmage passing game led to dull periods where the Belize side couldn’t seem to orchestrate a concerted team defensive strategy to break up the time-consuming strategy of the Canadians. And the game just slowly slipped away, ending in a 1-1 stalemate.
But the Belize team never gave up trying for a victory, and the fans never stopped cheering them on, vuvuzelas and waves and all. Overcoming the 3 goal deficit was obviously now out of the question, but a victory would be nice. And we almost got it, as a center from Evan Mariano (?) just moments before the long whistle saw Deon’s sharp header rebounding off the chest of the Canadian goalie, only to be headed toward goal again by Deon, and again to be stopped by the goalie. It was a gallant effort by the whole Belize team, who at least gave the many loyal Belize fans something to cheer about – a goal, our first against Canada in five international contests.
With the 4-1 aggregate victory, Canada advances to Round 4 of the World Cup 2018 Qualifiers; and Belize looks ahead with hope for World Cup 2022, after reaching Round 3 for the first time.
The Belize line-up tonight: #22 Shane Moody-Orio (GK), #13 Dalton Eiley, #8 Elroy Smith, #7 Ian “Yellow” Gaynair, #3 Trevor “Burger” Lennen, #5 Elroy “Bibbs” Kuylen (#23 Devon Makin 74’), #18 Denmark Casey, #14 Andres Makin, Jr. (#11 Jarret Davis 68’), #20 Daniel Jimenez, #9 Deon McCaulay, and #10 Harrison “Cafu” Roches (#6 Evan Mariano 68’).
Big Up the Jaguars! You defended the Jewel with honor. And Big Up our Belize fans! You’re the greatest; down 3-0, and you came out in numbers to ride with our boys.