Belize vs. Canada! - 07/26/15 11:14 AM
Belize will play in Toronto Canada at the BMO Field on September 4th- and then Canada comes to play in Belize on September 8th.
Things are starting to get serious for Canada in 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying, with CONCACAF’s semifinal round getting underway in November. But before play begins in that group, Canada must first get past Belize in a home-and-home series.
While the two teams are surprisingly close to one another in the most recent FIFA rankings (Canada at No. 101, Belize at No. 123), most Canadian fans will view the series against the small Central American nation (with a population under 350,000) as a mere formality.
Belize has never reached the penultimate round of World Cup qualifying, and will be motivated to make a bit of national team history. Canada, meanwhile, has some motivation of its own after a disappointing CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament over the summer.
With the first leg coming at BMO Field, where Canada has never lost an official match, Les Rouges will be anxious to put themselves in a comfortable position ahead of the second leg. Anything less than a victory by several goals will leave the team’s emotionally scarred supporters feeling supremely antsy heading into the return leg down in Central America.
Roster note: Veteran midfielder Julian de Guzman was medically cleared to join the national team following the initial roster release, and was subsequently added to the squad.
Broadcast note: The game can be seen live on TLN in Canada and a live stream will be available on the CSA’s website, canadasoccer.com.
The two teams met in a similar two-legged World Cup qualifying series back in June 2004. Both games were played in Kingston, Ontario (Belize did not have a suitable stadium at the time), and both were won 4-0 by Canada. Those are the only two historical meetings between the squads.
The Canadians have four wins, three draws and two losses in 2015—but whether it’s been a “good” year so far is a matter of some debate.
Canada exited the Gold Cup without scoring a goal (two scoreless draws and a last-minute 1-0 loss to Jamaica), causing much consternation among pundits and fans. But head coach Benito Floro, who has worked to implement a disciplined defensive structure in his two years at the helm, chose to focus on his side’s ability to stop opposing goals rather than its inability to score goals of their own.
Indeed, Canada’s defense has been stingy in the last 18 months, conceding just eight goals in 14 games. And despite the goalless Gold Cup, Canada did post a 6-0 aggregate win over Dominica in World Cup qualifying in June.
But while grinding out low-scoring results against CONCACAF’s heavyweights might be Floro’s long-term plan, a narrow result against a minnow such as Belize will do little to ease the growing concerns amongst observers of the team.
Fresh off a pair of aggregate victories in the first two rounds of World Cup qualifying (an away-goals win over the Cayman Islands in March, and a 5-1 aggregate decision over the Dominican Republic in June), Belize shot up to an all-time high of No. 118 in the FIFA rankings in July.
But those wins over fellow regional minnows might be deceiving. Against tougher opposition at the Copa Centroamericana in September 2014, Belize posted three straight losses (against Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras). But with a little bit of momentum behind them in a thus-far-undefeated 2015, the Belize squad will be crossing their fingers for a shocking result against Canada.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Canada – Will Johnson. The Portland Timbers captain is expected to make his first appearance for the national team in over two years, after an extended absence due to injury and other circumstances. The 28-year-old looks to be one of the key veterans upon whom Floro will rely for leadership during this World Cup qualifying campaign.
Belize – Deon McCaulay. The 27-year-old striker is the all-time leading scorer for the Belize national team, with 20 goals in 35 appearances. Like virtually all of his teammates, he’s spent most of his career playing in Belize, though McCaulay did spend part of the last two years with the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks. He’ll be the main—perhaps the only—offensive threat for his squad.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Milan Borjan (PFK Ludogorets Razgrad/Bulgaria); Maxime Crépeau (Montreal Impact); Kenny Stamatopoulos (AIK Fotbol/Sweden)
DEFENDERS (7): David Edgar (Sheffield United/England); Luca Gasparotto (Greenock Morton/Scotland); Manjrekar James (Diósgyöri VTK/Hungary); Sam Adekugbe (Vancouver Whitecaps FC); Marcel de Jong (Sporting Kansas City); Nik Ledgerwood (Energie Cottbus/Germany); Karl W. Ouimette (New York Red Bulls)
MIDFIELDERS (10): Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas); Kyle Bekker (Montreal Impact); Julian de Guzman (Ottawa Fury FC); Atiba Hutchinson (Beşiktaş JK/Turkey); Will Johnson (Portland Timbers); Issey Nakajima-Farran (Terengganu FA/Malaysia); Michael Petrasso (Queens Park Rangers/England); Samuel Piette (Racing Ferrol/Spain); Adam Straith (Fredrikstad FK/Norway); Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps)
FORWARDS (3): Marcus Haber (Crewe Alexandra/England); Cyle Larin (Orlando City SC); Tosaint Ricketts (Boluspor/Turkey)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Woodrow West (Belmopan Bandits/Belize); Shane Orio (Suchitepéquez/Guatemala); Keith Allen (unattached)
DEFENDERS (6): Khalil Velasquez (unattached); Dalton Eiley (Belmopan Bandits/Belize); Ian Gaynair (Belmopan Bandits/Belize); Elroy Smith (Platense/Honduras); Jessie Smith (unattached); Evral Trapp (Verdes FC/Belize)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Nana-Yaw Amankwah-Mensah (unattached); Denmark Casey (Belmopan Bandits/Belize); Daniel Jimenez (Police United/Belize); Trevor Lennen (Police United/Belize); Andres Makin (Police United/Belize); Devon Makin (Police United/Belize); Jordy Polanco (Belmopan Bandits/Belize); Harrison Roches (Police United/Belize)
FORWARDS (6): Jarret Davis (FC Belize/Belize); Evan Mariano (Police United/Belize); Deon McCaulay (Verdes FC/Belize); Gabriel Perez (unattached); Highking Roberts (Belmopan Bandits/Belize); Marlon Meza (unattached)
Canada looks to keep focus against Belize
For training, Belize’s national team pits cops against robbers. Not the pre-teen version you played in your backyard. Rather, the domestic soccer derby version. After all, it’s CONCACAF, where bizarre things happen throughout World Cup qualification. Canada hosts a Belizean side Friday night at BMO Field that consists of players predominantly from two domestic clubs: Police United and the Belmopan Bandits. The former was – and maybe still is – comprised of actual law enforcement. We can’t be sure. They don’t have a proper website. As for the Bandits, well, we don’t want to speculate about alleged criminal pasts. It’s safe to assume Canada’s staff likely doesn’t know much about Belize heading into CONCACAF’s third round.
Canadian men look to dispatch underdog Belize in FIFA World Cup qualifying
Superstitious Canadian soccer fans may not be happy to know that Belize is home to the world's largest sinkhole. Located 100 kilometres from the mainland, "the Great Blue Hole" is 300 metres wide and 125 metres deep. Canadian coach Benito Floro will be looking to avoid blundering into a Belize-made hole as his team opens a home-and-away World Cup qualifying series Friday at Toronto's BMO Field. On the surface, it should be smooth sailing. British bookmaker William Hill has Belize as a 12-1 underdog. Canada is ranked 102nd in the world while Belize -- whose population is around 350,000 -- is No. 128. The Canadian men dispatched the Jaguars 8-0 on aggregate when they met in a similar qualifying tie in 2004.
Canada all but booked its spot in the fourth round of CONCACAF qualification for the 2016 FIFA World Cup following a 3-0 win over Belize on a gorgeous Friday night before 10,412 fans at BMO Field.
Tosaint Ricketts was the star of the show, bagging a pair of goals for Canada, who now holds the distinct advantage over Belize going into the second leg. Atiba Hutchinson also scored for Canada.
This is a two-game CONCACAF qualifier with the winner based on aggregate score moving on. Canada just needs a draw in the return match next Tuesday in the Belize capital of Belmopan to advance to the fourth round. A 2-0 loss is also good enough for Canada. Belize needs a four-goal win in the second leg.
Canada was clearly the better side, and it was one-way traffic for most of the match. Still, it was a bit of a laboured performance for Canada, especially against a Belize team that only boasts three full-time professional players—the majority of their players have other jobs.
Canadian coach Benito Floro was pleased with the performance and felt his side comfortably controlled the match, and created a number of chances. But he also bemoaned his players’ lack of finishing, feeling Canada could have scored more goals.
“We can say the result was a little soft, but good,” Floro offered.
He later added: “Three goals is a good result but not enough to relax for the next game.”
Ricketts didn’t sound as concerned as his coach, pointing out that Canada did have scoring opportunities.
“As long as we’re getting chances I think things are okay. If you get enough chances the ball is going to go in. It’s better to get chances than not get any,” Ricketts offered.
Hutchinson concurred: “We controlled the game from start to finish. We played some good football. ... It was a good attacking performance from us.”
Curiously, Floro used a holding midfielder to shield the back four, almost acting as a fifth defender. At times, Hutchinson was deployed in the role—an odd assignment for Canada’s best attacking midfielder, to say nothing of why Canada needed an extra defender against a side the calibre of Belize.
Midfielder Will Johnson started for Canada on Friday, making his first appearance for the national team in over two years. It was also his first game back at BMO Field since breaking his leg in an MLS match against Toronto FC last September.
Canada is ranked 102nd in the world while Belize is No. 128.
A tediously dull first half saw Canada dominate but struggle to create anything in the final third of the pitch. Belize couldn’t connect its passes, and was only able to venture over the halfway line a few times. Canada had six shots on target in the opening 45 minutes—Belize didn’t have any. As the game wore on, Belize put more men behind the ball, making it harder for Canada to break through.
“It is true that Belize was very compact in front of their box, but it was not their defensive qualities that caused problems for us. It was our fault for not scoring more goals,” Floro assessed.
Veteran Canadian midfielder Julian de Guzman was subbed out in the 14th minute with a calf injury and was replaced by Samuel Piette.
The breakthrough came in the 25th minute. Belize goalkeeper Woodrow West made a fantastic save from in close, but he couldn’t control the rebound and his defenders couldn’t clear it. Ricketts managed to poke it past West in a mad goalmouth scramble.
The Canadians came out with more fire to start the second half. Ricketts made a number of swift moves to cut into the box from the wing, but his pass to Issey Nakajima-Farran had too much weight on it for the veteran to control, and he hit a weak shot right at the Belize goalkeeper.
Canada padded its lead in the 65th minute. Nik Ledgerwood whipped a fantastic ball from the flank deep into the box that Ricketts side-footed home for his 12th goal in 43 appearances for his country.
Hutchinson added a third goal for Canada late in regulation on a scrappy play just moments after West made a brilliant save to deny Johnson, tipping the midfielder’s blast from just inside the box just over the crossbar.
NOTES: The winner of this series advances to the semifinal round of the CONCACAF qualifiers, and will compete in a round-robin group with Mexico (No. 26 in the world), Honduras (No. 81), and either El Salvador (No. 107) or Curacao (No. 148). The top two teams from that group move on to "The Hex," the final round of CONCACAF qualifying... Former national team star Dwayne De Rosario was honoured in a special ceremony conducted on the field before kickoff. De Rosario, who retired earlier this season, is Canada’s all-time scorer with 22 goals. He also ranks third in appearances with 81...