With the minnows out of the way, the real test for Canada – which is seeking to qualify for the 2018 soccer World Cup – will come in the next round of qualifiers.
Ranked 102 in the world, the national team and Belize – which is ranked 128 – played to a 1-1 draw in Belmopan last week. Canada advanced with a 4-1 aggregate after shutting out the Belizeans 3-0 in the first leg match at home.
Coach Benito Floro said he knew Belize would put up a good fight at home.
“We kept the ball as much as possible because Belize has a good counter attack and a dangerous player (Deon McCaulay scored his team’s goal),” he said. “We knew on this pitch they were going to play well. The match was very difficult.”
Will Johnson scored the equalizer late in the first half after McCaulay put his team ahead in the 26th minute.
“It was nice to get the goal and it was good timing as they had just had some pressure,” said Johnson. “So it was good to get the goal just before the half.”
Brampton teenager Cyle Larin, who made history last January when he was picked number one by the expansion Orlando City Soccer Club in Major League Soccer SuperDraft in Philadelphia, said Canada achieved its goal.
“We played well and we got the point on the road to get us through to the next round,” the striker said. “They were difficult conditions (at FFB stadium), but you just have to go out there and get the job done.”
Canada overwhelmed 172nd ranked Dominica 6-0 on goal aggregate last June to clear the first hurdle in its bid to reach the men’s World Cup soccer finals for the first time since 1986.
With the win over Belize, Canada is among 12 Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) teams that will contest the penultimate stage of regional qualifiers from November 13, 2015 to September 6, 2016.
Canada is in Group “A” with 26th ranked Mexico and Honduras and El Salvador, which are ranked 81 and 107 respectively; while the Group “B” contestants are Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama and Haiti. Trinidad & Tobago, the United States, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Guatemala are in Group “C”.
The top two teams in each group will advance to the final stage. They will play each other home-and-away between November 2016 and October 2017, with the top three finishers advancing to the World Cup and the fourth-place finisher advancing to an inter-continental playoff.
Jamaica rebounded from a disappointing 3-2 home loss to Nicaragua to squeak out a 2-0 win on the road and advance with a 4-3 goal aggregate.
Substitute Simon Dawkins netted for the Reggae Boyz – the runner-up in this year’s Gold Cup tournament – in stoppage time to keep Jamaica afloat.
St. Vincent & the Grenadines drew with Aruba 2-2 to advance 3-2 on goal aggregate while Haiti and Guatemala took care of Grenada and Antigua & Barbuda respectively.