CANADA VS. BELIZE
Tuesday, Sept. 8, 9 pm ET
FFP Stadium, Belmopan, Belize
TV: EuroWorld Sport, canadasoccer.com
For Canada, it’s one down, one to go.
After the Canadians posted a thoroughly convincing 3-0 win at BMO Field on Friday night, the scene shifts down to Central America on Tuesday for the second leg of this third-round CONCACAF World Cup qualifying series.
Barring a nigh-unfathomable result in Belmopan, Canada’s next step in World Cup qualifying will be the familiar semifinal round, in a group with Mexico, Honduras and either El Salvador or Curacao (El Salvador won the first leg of that home-and-home series, 1-0, on Friday).
Even so, this game must be played – and though the end result wouldn’t appear to be in much doubt, it’s yet to be seen whether head coach Benito Floro will mix up his roster, or stick with the veteran-heavy squad that so easily handled Belize in the first leg.
Roster note: Julian de Guzman, who left Friday’s game early due to injury, traveled with the team down to Belize and is available for selection.
Broadcast note: The Canadian Soccer Association is hoping to offer a live web stream of the game, although the viability of the stream won’t be confirmed until game day.
The two teams have met three times in history. All were World Cup qualifiers, and all were one-sided shutout victories for Canada. Last week’s 3-0 win came 11 years after a pair of 4-0 wins played in Kingston, Ontario.
That same year, 2004, was the last time Canada earned a result in Central America in World Cup qualifying: a 1-0 win in Guatemala, which came just a month after a 1-1 draw in Honduras.
That 3-0 win made the outlook quite a bit rosier than it was coming out of this summer’s Gold Cup, though results against such obviously overmatched opposition can be deceiving. Still, Friday night’s result bumped Canada’s record to five wins, three draws and two losses in 2015.
Seven of those 10 games this year have been clean sheets; in all, Les Rouges have conceded just eight goals in 15 games since the start of 2014. Those numbers would seem to lend credence to Floro’s stated intention of creating a well-structured team that is difficult to score against.
But the concern, as has often been the case in Canada’s history, is putting the ball in the back of the net. While Canada managed to produce three goals from 25 shots against Belize in the first leg, they’re unlikely to get anywhere near that number of opportunities against tougher CONCACAF opponents.
It seems, though, that the Canadian team will live and die by its defensive shape. So don’t be surprised to see Floro’s side taking advantage of a chance to refine and perfect its defensive structure in a game down in Central America.
While Belize came in with dreams of reaching the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying for the first time ever, that dream appears to be over. The team failed to register a single shot in the first leg and rarely ventured into the Canadian half; even if they’re able to produce a little more offense in the second leg, their odds of prevailing are remote.
Belize would need at least three goals to have a chance; in 20 games under Floro, Canada has only conceded more than one goal in a game on three occasions (against Australia, the Czech Republic and Iceland).
But the Jaguars will no doubt be buoyed by the support of a home crowd, and will endeavor to represent their country with pride. Don’t be surprised if Belize looks more dangerous than they did in the first leg — but realistically, the focus is likely already on next year’s Copa Centroamericana.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Canada – Tosaint Ricketts. Whatever you may think of him, the 28-year-old winger/striker is one of Canada’s all-time top scorers, with a career total of 12 following a brace against Belize on Friday. And whatever other traits he may or may not possess, he does have a knack for being in the right place at the right time for the national team.
Belize – Woodrow West. It was difficult not to focus on the 29-year-old goalkeeper in the first leg, as he was under constant bombardment from repeated waves of Canadian attacks. He did enough to keep his side competitive for the majority of the match, and made an impressive stop on a Will Johnson blast late in the second half. If he can come up big again, Belize could keep this one close.
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); Samuel 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); 6Atiba 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, pictured at right); Gabriel Perez (unattached); Highking Roberts (Belmopan Bandits/Belize); Marlon Meza (unattached)