The long journey to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ has begun with a 5-2 victory for Belize over Montserrat in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago. The first of an anticipated 832 matches across six confederations proved to be a goalfest for the small crowd of around 150 in attendance, with Montserrat playing their home fixture at the Ato Boldon stadium in Trinidad due to the lack of a suitable venue in the tiny island nation.
With the score locked 1-1 at the interval, Belize put the tie almost out of reach of Kenny Dyer’s team, hitting four second-half goals ahead of Sunday’s second leg in Belmopan. Deon McCauley claimed his own small slice of history with the first hat-trick of the Brazil 2014 qualifying campaign, scoring in the 24th, 74th and 83rd minutes.
However it was Montserrat who had the better of the opening exchanges, with Julian Wade forcing the best out of goalkeeper Shane Orio after six minutes. Belize soon gained momentum, forcing three consecutive corners before deservedly grabbing the lead midway through the half. McCauley collected a through ball and clinically hit home past Micah Hilton for a 1-0 lead on a slippery surface, caused by an early evening downpour on the Central part of the twin-island Republic.
The ‘home’ side though were rewarded for their efforts with an equaliser shortly before half-time. Jay Lee Hogdson slotted home from close range, following a deep left-sided cross by Luevon O’Garro, to set up what looked to be a competitive second period.
Belize had other ideas, however, and seized the initiative from the outset of the second half amid pouring rain. The Central Americans reclaimed the lead five minutes after the interval through Harrison Roches, following good combination passing between Elroy Kuylen and McCaulay.
Montserrat dug themselves into a deeper hole when a mix up between defender Anthony Griffith and his onrushing goalkeeper allowed Kuylen to joyously slot home into an unprotected goal. Despite Montserrat’s best efforts they conceded a fourth on 75 minutes with McCauley controlling nicely on his chest, before firing home. The visitors were now in total control and McCauley collected his third when he cleverly robbed Hilton of possession on the edge of the penalty box and drilled a low shot into the vacant net.
Montserrat claimed the final goal of the encounter when Hodgson netted his second four minutes from the end with a powerful header from a left-sided cross. “We are happy with the win especially coming here to Trinidad and scoring five goals,” said Belize coach Jose de la Paz. “That doesn’t happen a lot for the team playing away from home. We have to thank God for being able to play the first game of the qualifying campaign for Brazil.
“The first half was even but then we took control in the second half with the four goals," he went on. "I don’t think we can relax before the next game because Montserrat could change their game and surprise us, so I have already told my players that we must be focused and finish the job to get into the next round.”
McCauley was all smiles after his three-goal performance, saying: “It’s a great feeling to get three goals in a FIFA World Cup qualifier. It’s the first time I’ve scored a hat-trick in international football at senior level and there’s no better match to do in than the first one for Brazil 2014. I thought we played well together as a team and that was the key. It would be a really great achievement for us to advance to the final stages of qualifying in CONCACAF.”
Montserrat coach Kenny Dyer was understandably disappointed with the scoreline, but remains optimistic for the second leg. “We put in a lot of effort in our preparation and it all fell apart in the second half in the space of ten minutes or so,” said Dyer. “That was the most disappointing thing for me because we did well in the first half. At half-time we thought there was a good chance we could get something from this game but it didn’t turn out that way. Now we’ve got to regroup and get ourselves ready for the next game. We can still hold our heads high and go to Belize and come away with a positive result.”