Canada’s path to the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup will go through Belize.
Canada was selected to play against Belize in the third round of the CONCACAF qualifiers during Saturday’s World Cup draw ceremony in Russia.
The teams will square off in a two-game playoff, with the first match on Sept. 4 at Toronto’s BMO Field. The return leg is four days later in Belize.
Canada is currently 103rd in the FIFA world rankings. Belize is 118th.
"We can say Belize is a team that has made positive and continuous progress. That’s good for us because it won’t be easy to pass this eliminatory round. We need to focus on these first two games with a lot of intensity," Canada coach Benito Floro said.
"Of course we’re only going to focus on Belize right now because if we don’t win that, it doesn’t matter to think about the groups. For us it’s very important and we can’t have any doubts about that."
If Canada wins the aggregate series, it moves on to the semifinals of the CONCACAF qualifying zone and will play in Group A alongside Mexico, Honduras, and the winner of a playoff between Curacao and El Salvador. The top two teams in that round robin group advance to “the Hex,” the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
"Speaking about the group in which we could be included if we beat Belize, I think that all the teams have a similar level. It’s true that Mexico is one step over the rest. But we need to trust in our players because history has demonstrated that it’s possible to qualify for the hexagonal," Floro said.
These teams met in 2004 in World Cup qualifying for the 2006 tournament in Germany. Canada won both matches by a score of 4-0—both games were held in Kingston, Ont., because there were no suitable venues in Belize.
Belize is a tiny nation located on the eastern coast of Central America, bordered by Mexico and Guatemala