• Sunday Jan 27, 2013

    McCauley, Belize shine brightly at Copa

    SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - Deon McCauley has scored goals before - plenty of them.

    The Belize striker was so prolific in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup that his eleven goals - scored over the course of the first and second rounds -- still lead the region in the run-up to Brazil 2014.

    But none of those World Cup qualifying goals will have proved more timely or valuable to the nation as a whole than the shot he tapped past Nicaraguan goalkeeper Denis Espinoza, on the final match day in Group A of the 2013 UNCAF Copa Centroamericana.

    "It felt unbelievable, incredible," McCauley said of the goal. "There aren't words that can express how good it felt to get that goal at that time in the game, it's unbelievable."

    The goal, which came in second half stoppage time, gave Belize a 2-1 win over Nicaragua - the nation's first-ever victory at the competition after 23 games.

    Just as importantly, McCauley's strike handed Belize three valuable points. After a tie with Guatemala earlier in the phase, the Jaguars finished as runner-up in Group A, which gave them an automatic berth in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

    The feat qualifies as perhaps the most important in the nation's sporting history.

    "In Belize, everybody's very, very happy," beamed McCauley. "It's insane in Belize right now, everyone is happy for us and the team. My family is happy, I'm happy."

    One of the more interesting stories to come out of this year's UNCAF event revolves around the Jaguars' breakout at the international level. The smallest Central American nation by a long shot, with just 300,000 inhabitants, Belize had only had four draws from eight previous appearances tournament appearances.

    That all changed in Costa Rica, where a fearless squad led by Costa Rican coach LeRoy Sherrier Lewis has challenged all comers. After making the semifinals, the Jaguars fell just short in their bid to make the final, losing 1-0 to regional heavyweight Honduras.

    "I feel very good, because I have accomplished a lot," finished McCauley. "I think that Belize accomplished a lot too. We need for us to just keep working hard and hopefully things will get better."

    After their performance in Costa Rica, things are already that much better for McCauley and the Jaguars. The goal of participating in the 2013 Gold Cup locked up and Belize now takes on El Salvador for third place in the Copa Americana, in a match to be played at 2:30 p.m. local time at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica.

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