SPORTS

Canada waits on World Cup qualifying foe as Dominica and BVI square off

03/25/2015 05:09 EDT | Updated 05/25/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Shane Marshall's taxi has been parked for the week. The 43-year-old Marshall is attending to his other job — manager of the Dominica soccer team.

Dominica kicks off a two-game series against the British Virgin Islands on Thursday, with the winner advancing to play Canada.

"We know for a fact Canada is a much stronger team," Marshall said Wednesday in an interview. "In the FIFA rankings, they're much higher than us.

"We're looking forward to playing Canada," he added, perhaps providing BVI counterpart Avondale Williams with some bulletin board fodder. "That's very good exposure for the players .. That's our goal — to reach the next stage against Canada."

Whoever wins, Canadian coach Benito Floro would be well advised to stock up on sunscreen.

Canada will host either Dominica or the British Virgin Islands on June 8 in Toronto, with the second leg set for a Caribbean island June 16.

Dominica hosts the British Virgin Islands on Thursday at Windsor Park in the capital city of Roseau. The second leg goes Sunday at the same venue. Apparently the BVI venue is currently not up to snuff.

Marshall, who retired from international play with Dominica in 2005, expects Canada will be facing his side when the dust settles.

"I don't really underestimate any team," he said. "I treat every team on its merits, I have respect for every team. But I know the past couple of years we have a very good record against the BVI team. So I expect us to be victorious."

Marshall says Thursday's game could draw as many as 5,000. The forecast calls for a high of 30 degrees, with scattered showers.

Dominica is ranked No. 181 in the world — tied with Cambodia and San Marino — while British Virgin Islands are No. 201, tied with Andorra and Eritrea. Only Somalia, the Cayman Islands, Djibouti, Cook Islands, Anguilla and Bhutan rank lower.

Canada, it should be noted is hardly in the penthouse at No. 116.

The Dominica players are part-time players who practise three times a week. Marshall's squad includes a teacher with students, construction workers and gardeners also represented.

International games don't happen that often.

According to the website, Dominica lost 1-0 to Antigua & Barbuda earlier this month. Marshall's squad went 0-6-2 in 2014 with draws against Guyana and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Dominica's last win was 1-0 over St. Lucia in December 2013, according to the FIFA listings.

BVI was also beaten 1-0 by Antigua & Barbuda this year. The team was outscored 15-0 last year in losses to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Aruba, and Turks and Caicos.

Located about halfway between Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica covers 750 square kilometres, with a population of about 73,400 as of July 2014 — roughly that of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

The British Virgin Islands, situated east of Puerto Rico and northwest of Dominica, cover 150 square kilometres with a population of 32,700.

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