Richard Orlowski (pictured) masterminded Belize's draw with host in the Copa Centroamericana on January 13, 2017, in Panama City. (Photo: Imagenes en Costa Rica)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Belize pulled off the biggest surprise of the 2017 Copa Centroamericana’s opening day, when it held host Panama to a scoreless draw on Friday at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
The result snapped the Jaguars’ five-game losing streak in the competition, which started after they beat Nicaragua, 2-1, in a first-round match on January 22, 2013.
One person not taken aback by the scoreline, though, was Belize head coach Richard Orlowski.
"My players knew what was happening,” the 60-year-old, a former Anguilla manager, said after the game. “They defended well and that's why the game ended 0-0. We had it controlled."
Another reason for Belize’s success was the play of goalkeeper Woodrow West, who faced 14 total shots and was forced to make five saves, some spectacular.
"Football is often unfair to some,” commented the Poland-born Orlowski. "I still think Panama is the best team in the tournament. Today, we played good defense. Panama couldn’t take their (chances).”
Next up for the Belizeans is a Sunday meeting with two-time defending champion Costa Rica. The Ticos have won each of their four previous Copa meetings by a combined score of 14-1.
Orlowski was philosophical, but optimistic, about the task at hand.
"I do not know what strategy we’ll use against Costa Rica, but if it worked against Panama, it should work against Costa Rica,” he finished.