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It seems like just the other day that World Cup Brazil 2014 was over, but the qualifying draw for World Cup Russia 2018 has already been announced by the world governing body for football, FIFA. Team Saint Lucia begins its campaign in June of this year, against the Benna Boys of Antigua-Barbuda.
The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) held its draw for the initial phases of the CONCACAF Preliminary Competition for the global tournament on Friday in Miami, with 27 of the 35 CONCACAF Member Associations involved.
The qualifying tournament will include five rounds in total, from March 2015 all the way yo 2017. Round one features seven home-and-away series, among nations ranked 22-35 in the region in the August 2014 FIFA rankings. Round Two features winners from Round One plus 13 additional national teams.
Saint Lucia and Antigua-Barbuda will play Match 9, in St John’s on 8 June and in SaintLucia on 16 June. The winning team will advance to Round Three from August 31-September 8. Round Three consists features Round Two winners, joined by the two Member Associations ranked 7 and 8 – Jamaica and Haiti.
Saint Lucia has recent history with the Benna Boys. When they met last October at the Caribbean Cup, the men from the Leeward Islands – with a squad featuring nine overseas players – earned a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the Windward Islands champions.
It was Antigua-Barbuda’s third consecutive win over Saint Lucia, in a series that goes back to 1990. Saint Lucia won 2-0 (1990), 1-0 (2001) and 2-1 (2004) before losing three on the trot, 1-6 (2008), 0-5 (2010) and last year’s reversal. Four of those games were played in St John’s.
Also in October, Antigua-Barbuda attained its highest-ever position in the FIFA / Coca-Cola World Ranking since that metric was introduced by the world governing body in 1993. Moving up a whopping 69 slots in the September rankings, Antigua-Barbuda found themselves 80th in the world.
Now, they have dropped to 95th, but that will be cold comfort for Saint Lucia, who languish at 140th in the world. That is ahead of Barbados, Grenada and Dominica, but behind St Vincent & the Grenadines, and of course Antigua-Barbuda.
It should be interesting to see how Saint Lucia build on a decent run of matches in 2014. Whether they will call on potential recruits such as Janoi Donacien, Caniggia Elva, Zaine Pierre, Dominic Poleon and the likes will certainly be of great interest to local fans.