COUVA, Trinidad (AP) – Deon MacCauly scored three goals to help Belize beat the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat 5-2 on 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 CONCACAF region kicked off a sequence of 832 games to decide the 31 teams that will join host Brazil at the next World Cup.
Montserrat was the host, but because the 202nd-ranked team in the world did not have a venue that meets international standards, the match was played at Ato Boldon Stadium in Trinidad.
The swirling controversy involving suspended CONCACAF president Jack Warner and the Caribbean Football Union was no distraction, and coaches Kenny Dyer of Montserrat and Jose de la Plaza Herrera of Belize said it had no impact on their preparations.
Warner, a FIFA vice president, is banned from soccer activities pending an investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee and was not at the match. He and then-FIFA presidential candidate Mohammed Bin Hammam of Qatar are alleged to have been involved in bribing union 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 halftime after MacCauly opened the scoring with a powerful right-foot strike from a right-wing cross in the 27th minute for Belize, and Jaylee Hodgson scored an equalizer in the 44th minute for Montserrat.
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.
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.''