Canada’s record against Belize in men’s soccer is unblemished and expectations are it will remain that way after home and away 2018 Russia World Cup qualifiers in the next week.
The national side hosts the Belizeans on September 4 at BMO Field with the return game to be played in Belize four days later.
In their only meetings, Canada shut out Belize 4-0 twice in three days in 2004 in World Cup qualifiers. Both matches were played in Kingston, Ontario because Belize didn’t have a suitable stadium at the time.
The September 8 meeting will take place at the 5,000-seat FFB stadium in Belmopan.
Canada qualified for the third round after a 6-0 aggregate victory over Dominica in June while Belize beat the Cayman Islands and the Dominican Republic 2-0 and 5-1 respectively on goal aggregate.
National coach Benito Floro promised Canada will not overlook the Central American country in its bid to reach the World Cup finals for the first time since 1986.
“I think that Belize is going to try to play a counter-attacking style,” he said. “But we need to have a good level over the two games against them. We need to maintain our concentration. It’s very important to score goals and continue our strong play at the back. We consider that this is a good team and we must treat them with respect because in eliminatory games like this, there are no small teams.”
Dominica-born Manjrekar James, who debuted with the senior team earlier this year, is among 22 players selected for the Belize contests. The 23-year-old centre back, who migrated to Canada with his family 14 years ago, plays for Diosgyori in the Hungarian League.
“Always happy to be part of the Canadian national team squad and looking forward to the qualifiers against Belize,” James posted on his Twitter account after the roster was revealed.
If Canada is successful against Belize, they will advance to a tough group in the next round that includes Mexico, Honduras and either El Salvador or Curacao. A total of 12 teams will be divided into three groups of four, with the top two teams in each group progressing to the final stage.
The six remaining Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) teams will play each other home-and-away between November 2016 and October 2017, with the top three finishers moving forward to the World Cup and the fourth-place finisher advancing to an inter-continental playoff.
Meanwhile, the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualification competition resumes with 26 matches across the continent from September 4-6.
Defending champions Ivory Coast will be without its captain, Yaya Toure, who has asked to be excluded for the September 6 match against Sierra Leone.
The 32-year-old Manchester City midfielder, who has represented his country in three World Cups, is considering retirement.
“At the moment, he’s in a period of reflection about his international future,” said Coach Michel Dussuyer. “I met him in London and told him I was counting on him. He’s a big player and the captain of the team. I hope he will continue his adventure with us.”
Ivory Coast drew 1-1 with Gabon while Sierra Leone lost 1-0 to Sudan in the first round of qualifiers last June.
And, uncapped 19-year-old midfielder Godfred Donsah, who plays for Bologna in the Italian Serie A league, has been included in the Ghanaian team that will face Rwanda in Kigali on September 5.
Ghana demolished Mauritius 7-1 while Rwanda defeated Mozambique 1-0 in their opening matches in June.
The winners of the 13 groups will book their place at the tournament along with the two best-placed runners-up excluding the group which contains hosts Gabon, whose matches will be considered friendlies and where only the winner will qualify.
Gabon, which co-hosted the 2012 competition with Equatorial Guinea, beat out Ghana and Algeria for the right to host the 2017 tournament. Libya, which was slated to host the regional tournament, withdrew last year because of civil conflict in the country.