Little Dominica make a mark

Caribbean minnows Dominica have experienced a significant and surprising leap in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, with a 46-place leap shooting them up the global standings. Having been stuck on 178 in the world for the past two months, October saw the tiny island nation with little footballing pedigree to speak of rise up to 132rd, making them the best mover in the most recent release of the global pecking order.

They now sit in the relatively rarefied air of North, Central America and Caribbean’s mid-level competitors, in 21st place in the region, ahead of the likes of Nicaragua, the Netherlands Antilles and only five points behind former Caribbean champions Haiti.

Dominica’s big boost came on the back of a series of impressive results in the past two months, with two wins over Barbados in September, first by a score of 2-0 and then 3-1. The friendly victories were then followed by a pair of astounding wins in qualifying in the early stages of the 2010 Caribbean Cup, first a 10-0 hammering of  the British Virgin Islands and then a slim 1-0 win over the Dominican Republic (who had beaten the British Virgin Islanders 17-0 a few days earlier). The results saw the side reach the second round of the Caribbean showpiece, an achievement made all the more impressive considering the win over the Dominican Republic was played in intimidating territory in front of their opponents’ home fans.

Star striker Kurlson Benjamin, who plays his club football for Bath Estate on the island, scored no fewer than five goals in the lopsided win over the Virgin Islanders. Coached by former player, Kirt Hector, Dominica seem to have all of the hallmarks of the Caribbean football scene. Tough tackling and scrappy at the back, speedy up the flanks and in attack, they will be no pushovers when they march into the next stage of the Caribbean Cup on 10 November in Antigua and Barbuda. Laying in wait for the minnows will be regional powers Cuba, Antigua and Suriname in the tournament’s Group G. A first-place finish (or as one of the best runners-up) would see the side qualify for the Caribbean Cup finals, where they would meet up with the region’s glamour sides like Trinidad and Tobago or Jamaica.

The results saw Dominica reach the second round of the Caribbean Cup for the first time in their history, and hhighlights their chances of mounting a challenge in their next test: the FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers in the CONCACAF zone ahead of Brazil 2014. The islanders are a young group, with a fine future ahead. Only one player in the squad, Prince Austrie is over the age of 30. And the vast majority of the team is based locally, allowing coach Hector the time to work with his charges. While a spot in Brazil in four years time is an unlikely dream, a place among CONCACAF’s best in its biennial Gold Cup might well be something more realistic.

Though Dominica will be considered among the outsiders to steer their way to the finals of the 2010 Caribbean Cup which take place in late November and early December of 2010 in Martinique, winning games can often he addictive, and the improvements seen in the months of September and October will hold the side in good stead for the challenges to come. A nation of just over 72,000, Dominica only began attempting to qualify for the dreamland of a FIFA World Cup in 1998, but if they keep up their current trajectory, it seems the sky may be the limit.