COUVA, Trinidad (AP) – Deon MacCauly scored three goals as Belize beat the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat 5-2 Wednesday in the first qualifying match on the three-year road to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The first-leg match in the preliminary round for the North, Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF) region kicked off a sequence of 832 scheduled games to decide the 31 teams which will join host Brazil in contesting the next World Cup.
Montserrat was the designated host, but because the 202nd-ranked team in the world did not have a venue that meets international standards the match was played at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Trinidad.
The swirling controversy involving suspended CONCACAF president Jack Warner and the Caribbean Football Union was no distraction, with coaches Kenny Dyer of Montserrat and Jose de la Plaza Herrera of Belize saying it had no impact on their preparations.
Warner, a FIFA vice president, has been banned from football activities pending an investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee and was not at the match.
It is alleged that Warner and then FIFA presidential candidate, Asian Football Confederation chief Mohammed Bin Hammam of Qatar, were involved in bribing CFU officials at a meeting in Port of Spain during campaigning for the election.
Montserrat, devastated when the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted in 1995 and forced two-thirds of the population to leave, has never won a match or played on home ground in three previous World Cup qualifying campaigns.
It was 1-1 at half time after Jaylee Hodgson scored an equalizer in the 44th minute for Montserrat after MacCauly opened the scoring with a powerful right-foot strike from a right wing cross in the 27th for Belize.
In front of a crowd of about three dozen people, Belize went ahead 3-1 with goals from Harrison Roches in the 49th and Elroy Kuylen in the 53rd before MacCauly completed his hat trick in driving rain with goals in the 75th and 83rd minutes.
Hodgson scored a consolation goal from close range in the 86th.
Montserrat coach Dyer was hopeful of recalling leading players Benjamin Manning and Clifford Joseph for the return match at Belmopan, Belize on Sunday after both missed the loss in Trinidad.
''We are very disappointed ... Not so much that we lost, but that we allowed two silly goals in the second half,'' he said. ''We are going to have to attack Belize in the return game.''
Herrera congratulated his Belize squad, saying ''I feel real good, as a visitor,'' but warned them not to be over confident ahead of the return match.