PORT OF SPAIN - Less than one
year after Spain beat Netherlands to win the World Cup, the
circus starts again on Wednesday although the opening match of
the 2014 qualifying tournament will cause barely a ripple.
Tiny Montserrat, who have won only two international
matches, are scheduled to face Belize on neutral territory in a
match which will be a far cry from last year's game at Soccer
City, watched by an estimated 700 million television viewers.
Football's governing body FIFA said that the game, to be
staged at Malabar (pictured), Trinidad & Tobago because Montserrat does not
have a suitable stadium, will not be televised and only a
handful of spectators are expected.
The preliminary round first leg tie is the first of an
expected 832 qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil in
which all but five of FIFA's member association's are set to
Running Montserrat's national team has become a complicated
exercise since the 1995 volcanic eruption which forced more than
half the island's people to move abroad, burying the capital
Plymouth and reducing the population from 12,000 to 4,700.
They are joint 202nd and last in the FIFA rankings alongside
Anguilla, who are also in action, Andorra, Papua-New Guinea,
American Samoa and San Marino.
Montserrat's last games were last year when they played
three times, conceded 16 goals and failed to score in heavy
defeats to St Vincent & Grenadines, Barbados and St Kitts &
But national team coach Kenny Dyer, who played for a number
of non-league clubs in England, is still optimistic his team can
pull off an upset in the opening match of the two-leg tie.
"Our chances are very good," Dyer, whose squad includes
midfielder Anthony Griffith from Port
Vale, told FIFA.com.
"They have more experience than us, but we are a quality
side especially with the inclusion of some players who play
abroad, in the UK and the Australian league."
Belize are 172nd in the FIFA rankings and coach Jose de la
Paz Herrera has World Cup experience as the 70-year-old led his
native Honduras to the finals in Spain in 1982, the first of
their only two appearances at the tournament.
Although the main draw for the 2014 qualifiers will take
place in Rio de Janeiro on July 30, a number of preliminary
matches will be played in CONCACAF and Asia before then.
Eight other teams are involved in the CONCACAF preliminaries
with Anguilla facing Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Islands
taking on the British Virgin Islands, Aruba meeting St Lucia and
Bahamas facing the Turks and Caicos Islands.
These matches are due to be played in the next few weeks but
the dates have not been announced. Belize are due to host
Montserrat in the return on Sunday.
Europe will have 13 places at the 2014 finals, with five for
Africa, 4.5 for South America and Asia, 3.5 for CONCACAF and 0.5
for Oceania. Brazil qualify automatically as hosts.
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