BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Mar. 25, 2021– What more can we ask? This afternoon, Belizean football fans at home watched, perhaps with unfair expectations, as our National “A” Team, the Jaguars gave their all for ninety minutes at the Sylvio Cator Stadium in Port Au Prince, Haiti, against a decidedly better skilled and trained Haitian national team, ranked #84 in FIFA to Belize’s #170; and we lost by a 2-nil score, both goals coming in second half off corners (the 50th and 80th minutes). Nil-nil at half-time, although Haiti had decidedly more possession and better chances, it was still no “walk in the park” for our Caribbean opponents who could not record their “insurance” second goal until 10 minutes before the long whistle.
Considering that there has been no competitive football in Belize for a year now due to the Covid pandemic protocol here, and with no tune-up internationals for our “A” Team, it is indeed an achievement that our young men were able to compete as well as they did. Big respect, the Jaguars! Although Haiti commanded possession with good spacing and precise cross-field passing to often gain the advantage of numbers, our tenacious defensive play kept them on their heels; and our occasional threats on offense, though not orchestrated well enough to create any panic for their defence, nevertheless kept them honest and unwilling to venture too aggressively in their attack.
And, regardless of the outcome, Belize did gain a measure of respect from our Haitian hosts, who were no doubt appreciative of our delegation’s Caribbean spirit and brave sportsmanship in pushing the unfortunate bus incident behind us, and giving our more accomplished opponents the opportunity to prove their mettle against us on the field.
But while we applaud the effort, and we are thankful for the respectable results, Belize football fans, unforgiving as we are, and as great as we think we can be, will still be lamenting that there seems to be, and there seems to have been for quite some time now, a glaring deficiency of our national teams in defending against corners and set-pieces. A little bit of luck and good goalkeeping have helped us to dodge many bullets over the years. And today, it happened again; twice. Haiti deserved the win; and the score fairly represents their better game. But we old schoolers have kept quiet too long. With all the advancement in technology and technique in modern times, there are still a couple fundamentals that our national team could gain from the wisdom of some of our living defensive legends.
From what we observed on TNC-10, Belize started with Woodrow West in goal; in defence we had, from left to right, Deshawon Nembhard, Evral Trapp, Asrel Sutherland and Ian Gaynair; in midfield, Angelo Cappello, Jordy Polanco, Mike Atkinson and Collin Westby; and in the forward, Carlos Bernardez and Deon McCaulay. During the course of second half, Belize made 5 substitutions: at the 56th minute – Nana Mensah replaced Mike Atkinson, and Andres Makin, Jr. replaced Jordy Polanco; at the 61st minute, Krisean Lopez replaced Carlos Bernardez; and at the 69th minute, Jesse August replaced Angelo Capello, and Norman Anderson replaced Ian Gaynair.
Congrats to all our players, coach Dale Pelayo and his coaching staff, and our technical support personnel for staying strong in difficult circumstances!
Reports are that Saint Lucia has withdrawn from the Qualifiers, leaving only four teams in our group, Group E. So Belize has only two more World Cup 2022 qualifying games remaining, against Turks and Caicos Islands (our home game) next Tuesday, March 30, in the Dominican Republic; and in June against Nicaragua in Nicaragua.
The Jaguars leave tomorrow for the Dominican Republic.
Big-up the Jaguars! We’re proud of you guys. Le’s go, Belize!!