The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014™ preliminaries continue in earnest this week as eight Caribbean hopefuls enter the first round of CONCACAF qualifiers. Two matches took place at the weekend, and the action resumes on Friday with a series of clashes that promise thrills and entertainment aplenty.
Bright starts for Bahamas and US Virgin Islands
While most of the teams in CONCACAF are preparing to kick off their qualifying campaigns, two sides have already made their first steps towards Brazil 2014. Indeed, Bahamas and US Virgin Islands were both in action at the weekend, recording first-leg victories over Turks and Caicos Islands and British Virgin Islands respectively.
The action got underway in Charlotte Amalie, the capital city of the US Virgin Islands, where the hosts took on close neighbours British Virgin Islands in the first leg of their tie. It was the home side who emerged victorious with a 2-0 win, after a hard-fought match that had a real derby feel to it. The victory was all the more remarkable by the fact that US Virgin Islands had lost all five of their previous qualifiers, scoring just one goal and conceding 35 in the process.
In the weekend’s other match, Bahamas asserted their authority over Turks and Caicos Islands, returning from their away trip with a convincing 4-0 victory under their belts. Bahamian star Nesley Jean enhanced his reputation by scoring twice, with Cameron Hepple and Jackner Louis bagging the other two goals.
CONCACAF contenders enter the fray
After the excitement of those opening encounters, the action resumes and promises to be every bit as absorbing. The first match of the round pits Anguilla against Dominican Republic, who start as favourites to progress as they will be playing both legs on home turf. The two sides met under identical circumstances in the preliminaries ahead of Germany 2006, with the Dominicans winning the tie 6-0 on aggregate.
Just a few hours after the Anguilla-Dominican Republic fixture, Aruba welcome St. Lucia to Oranjestad for the first leg of their tie. The hosts will be hoping to win their first qualifying match since 2000, when they caused a major upset by beating Puerto Rico to advance to the second round of the CONCACAF section. St. Lucia boast a superior qualifying record to their opponents, having made it through to the second phase in both of the last two qualifying campaigns.
Bahamas will be looking to finish the job they started against Turks and Caicos Islands on Saturday, while Sunday sees the return leg between Dominican Republic and Anguilla, which will once again be played at the Estadio Panamericano in San Cristobal. Also on Sunday, British Virgin Islands will be out to overturn the two-goal advantage that their US neighbours built in the first leg.
The final action of the week takes place in Castries, where St. Lucia go head-to-head with Aruba in the return leg of their first-round tie. Both sides will be pushing for a victory that would seal their place in the next round of qualifying.
Slowly but surely, the race for Brazil 2014 is hotting up. Who will emerge victorious this week? Which stars will fire their teams a step closer to a place at the FIFA World Cup? All will be revealed soon.