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Belize’s historic 1st win at Copa Centroamericana

Not even a 4.0 on the Richter scale tremor felt in Costa Rica a half hour before Belize’s match with Nicaragua could prepare Belizean football fans, for the earth-shaking result: Belize’s first ever victory in UNCAF Copa Centroamericana at the National Stadium in San Jose, Costa Rica on Tuesday, January 22.
Belize had drawn five times in 22 previous appearances in the Copa Centromaricana, formerly know as the UNCAF Nations Cup, but this first ever victory propelled Belize into second place in Group A, also assuring Belize a berth in this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup which will be played in several cities in the continental United States in July this year. Belize—with only 4 pts from a win and a draw—ranked above Guatemala with only 3pts from three draws.
Deon McCauley’s injury time goal was his 16th international goal, making him Belize’s most prolific scorer of all time. The 13 goals he scored in 2011 rank him as the top goal-scorer in the world for those qualification matches for World Cup Brazil 2014. And that’s not counting his first international goal for Belize’s under-23 selection in their 2-0 victory over El Salvador at the Carl Ramos Stadium in 2006.
The Belizean offense was working smoothly like a well-oiled machine, with Trevor Lennon and Devon Makin working the ball up the wings to create plays for McCaulay and Harrison “Kafu” Roches, while Everald Trapp and Evan Mariano were breaking up plays at midfield to return the ball forward.
A streaking Trevor Lennon caught up to a forward pass from Devon Makin on the edge of the 18-yard box, and Nicaraguan goalkeeper Denis Espinoza did not have a prayer of stopping Lennon’s cannonball shot to give Belize a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute.
Roches almost made it 2-0 with another rocket of a shot in the 43rd minute, but this time Espinoza’s diving save kept it to a 1-0 ball game.
Nicaragua’s Spanish coach Enrique Llena introduced Elvis Figueroa to relieve Salvador Garcia and Daniel Reyes substituted for Raul Leguias as the Nicaraguan 4-4-2 formation sought to open up space among the , Belize’s defenders, Ashle Torres, Dalton Eiley, Elroy Smith and Ian Gaynair.
They played the ball in Belize’s half of the field for much of the second half as Elvis Figueroa and Manuel Rosas attacked on the left flank while Josué Quijano and Félix Rodríguez attacked on the right, looking to finish plays created by their midfielders Axel Villanueve and team captain David Solórzano.
Belize’s goalkeeper, Woodrow West, was all systems go, denying Nicaragua’s every try, but when they won a free kick from just 20 yards in the 70th minute, David Solorzano’s execution almost delivered the equalizer.
Only five minutes remained when Felix Rodriguez caught up to an aerial pass on the edge of the goal area, and Belize’s Ashley Torres could not gain control as Rodriguez juggled the ball from his right to his left foot. But before Rodriguez could connect, Elvis Figueroa darted in with a right-away kick that beat West and scored the equalizer.
Belize continued to live dangerously as West got help from his right upright when a shot from Samuel Wilson ricocheted off the vee of upright and crossbar.
Nicaragua now pressed for the game-winner, but Evan Mariano’s forward pass found Deon McCaulay racing for the opposite goal. Espinoza came out to meet McCaulay’s charge, but McCaulay nimbly tapped the ball past Espinoza and all Belizean viewers gasped a collective sigh of relief as the ball rolled and bounced ever so slowly across the goal line into the empty net.
McCaulay had almost beaten Costa Rica’s goalkeeper, Pemberton, with a left foot kick on a forward pass from Evan Mariano in Belize’s opening match last Friday night, but the ball drained just wide of the right upright. The Belize defense played a tough game, but in the end, Costa Rica secured their 1-0 win.
Belize picked up its first point by holding Guatemala to a scoreless draw, and is now preparing to take on the top ranked team from Group B, Honduras, in the semifinals at 6:30 Friday night, while first-place Costa Rica will take on second-ranked El Salvador.

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