• Monday Jan 21, 2013

    As nation watches, Belize aims for glory

    SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - As sporting events go, few have held more importance in the history of Belize than the UNCAF Copa Centroamericana match against Nicaragua scheduled for Tuesday in Costa Rica.

    "The entire nation will be at a stop," said Belize assistant coach and long-time national team goalkeeper Carlos Slusher. "The entire nation will be at a standstill for that game."

    In an exclusive interview with CONCACAF.com, Slusher revelaed that his countrymen back home have been following their national team's progress closely this week, with Belize on the brink of a historic chance to play for a berth in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

    "The entire country is behind us," said Slusher. "Even the people, as we watch, even the people that don't know about football, are behind us. And more and more people are glued to the television watching the Central American Cup.

    "The entire country is happy. But I have already told them that we know that we have not really accomplished anything yet if we don't make it to the Gold Cup."

    Belize has never qualified for CONCACAF's championship tournament. The Copa Centroamericana serves as the qualifying tournament for the region, and will send five teams to this year's Gold Cup, to be played across the U.S. for several weeks in July.

    With a win in its Group A capper against the Nicaraguans, Belize would assure itself of making at least the fifth place play-in match, and could potentially qualify directly for the Gold Cup with a second-place finish in the group - depending on the outcome of the contest between Costa Rica and Guatemala later in the evening.

    "I think that would be one of the greatest things in history for the country," Slusher said of potentially making the Gold Cup. "Myself and other footballers have been trying for a long time.

    "We have good footballers, but we have never been able to get it together at a national team level and gain some respect for Belize as a country. This is a great opportunity. We may never have it again."

    Behind the heroic play of a defense that has surrendered only one goal in match-ups with regional powers Costa Rica and Guatemala, and the heroics of young goalkeeper Woodrow West, Belize is closer than ever to its historic dream.

    And, according to Slusher, the entire nation of 300,000 is set to tune in on Tuesday to witness the outcome.

    "Yes, the entire country is behind us, but we want to give you more," said Slusher. "And giving you more means qualifying to the Gold Cup."

    The decisive match between Belize and Nicaragua kicks off on Tuesday at 4:00 PM local time, at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose.

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