Yes, I know I'm late, but Happy New Year to everyone! Soccermetrics is keeping me busy as always, but I had a great reason to come back.
Yes, Belize, currently ranked 164 in the FIFA World Ranking (and last among Central American countries), is headed to the Gold Cup after finishing in fourth place in the Copa Centroamericana, formerly known as the Copa UNCAF. They were the lone Central American team never to have qualified for an international competition. No longer.
All of the hard work was done in the group stage as Belize won the winnable game against Nicaragua and held their own against relative powers Guatemala and Costa Rica. The 0-0 against Guatemala -- even a chapínes side that had declined greatly since 2005 -- has to rank among Belize's most important football results. Yes, they fell to Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Honduras, but by the minimum in each match and to a goal scored in the second half.
Belize's best known player is Deon McCaulay, the national team's all-time leading scorer who has played for a few mid-table clubs in Costa Rica and Honduras. Belize will be up against it in the Gold Cup, but at least their fans will get to live the dream.