Guatemala City, February 6, 2008 The Belize national football selection won their first World Cup qualifier match ever by a 3-1 victory over St Kitts–Nevis at the Mateo Flores Olympic Stadium in Guatemala City on Wednesday, February. It was the first match of the home and away series in the preliminary round leading up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
A scant 13 minutes of play had passed when Deon Macauley scored first for Belize. The few Belize fans in the almost empty stadium cheered, but not for long as only seven minutes later, a counterattack by the St Kitts’ eleven caused Belize goalkeeper Shane Orio to come out of goal and dive for a save. Orio could not hold on to the ball and as it deflected back into play, St Kitts’ midfielder #7 Gerard Williams picked up the rebound and blasted it back into the empty goal to equalize 1-1.
The first half was only midway through, but the thin air at the high elevation of Guatemala City was telling on St Kitts’ finest, who seemed to just run out of gas. Eight minutes later, Belize’s Harrison Roches had no trouble razzle-dazzling his way though the St Kitts’ defense to embarrass the St Kitts’ goalkeeper Kaiyan Benjamin for a second time and deliver the winning goal.
Orio had another close call when St Kitts’ right wing Otiba Harris brought the ball up the right flank and crossed into the goal area for a speeding Jevon Francis to finish. Orio would not have had a prayer, but mercifully Francis could not catch up to the ball.
Three minutes remained to the first half when the Belize midfield broke up a St Kitts’ attack and David Trapp forwarded the ball to Harrison Roches who drove up the left flank before centering to Deon Macauley, who finished with brio to give the ‘home’ team 3-1 lead going into intermission. The referee added eight minutes of stoppage time to the first half, but no more goals resulted.
Denis Serano pressed for a fourth goal, but he failed to finish, before he was relieved by Jerome “Jaro” James, whose speed gave him an open field as he out-distanced the St Kitts defense, but his shot went straight to the waiting gloves of the St Kitts keeper. Kaiyan saw the danger and came out of goal to forestall many of James’ attacks by intercepting the forward pass.
The Belize eleven failed to increase the goal differential before the long whistle, a result we may have cause to regret when the selection travels to St Kitts for the rematch on March 26. The St Kitts team includes a number of players who are playing abroad in top clubs in the United States, and they were working the ball well, with precise passes. The lack of oxygen altitude told on them, but we won’t have that advantage in St Kitts which will be near sea level, and the St Kitts team will have the moral support of their home fans. They will need to win by three goals to advance to the second round.
If not, then team Belize will gird their loins to take on football powerhouse, Mexico, in the second round in June. Were Belize to make it though that round, there would be three groups of four teams, each group playing a round robin competition of six matches from August to December with the first and second place winners in each group advancing to a final hexagonal elimination in 2009, from which four will advance to the World Cup.