The task was always uphill and Belize entered today’s game in East Hartford, Connecticut, with a slim mathematical chance of making Sunday’s quarterfinals with a heavy defeat of Cuba – four goals or more would overhaul Martinique for the final slot. The Leones del Caribe had not won a game in the group stages of the Cup for 13 straight occasions, but against a younger and less experienced opponent they took charge. Coach Ian Mork started Khalil Velasquez for his first appearance in the tournament in the defense and David Trapp in midfield, going for youth over experience. Trapp controlled the ball well in midfield but too often his passes to forwards Evan Mariano, Michael Salazar and Deon McCauley were errant. On defense, Belize gave away many corner kicks and scoring opportunities, playing a worse defensive game than against either the U.S. or Costa Rica, and in the 37th Ariel Martinez Gonzales beat Woodrow West with a shot that took a slight deflection. Gonzales scored again in the 61st, and again in the 83rd. Cuba got the goal they needed in injury time from Jenier Marquez, sparking celebrations reminiscent of our own in Nicaragua when Deon McCauley scored in the final minute of injury time against Nicaragua to book our place in the Gold Cup. But it was frustration and not jubilation for the Jaguars, as in the 80th match-scorer versus the United States, Ian Gaynair, was sent off for his second bookable offence, meaning Belize finished the game with 10 men. But despite the heavy defeat, the Jaguars can be proud of representing the nation and refusing offers to throw the U.S. game. After the game, Coach Mork noted that the changes in the team were his way of bringing in fresh legs at certain positions. He called the tournament an “important learning experience” for players who had never come here before and promised that the next time, Belize would use what it learned and play “at a much higher level.” Asked about the impact of the Costa Rica match, Mork says we proved to ourselves that we could play 90 minutes with the best, our only let-down the own-goal by Dalton Eiley. This match, he believed, could have gone either way at certain moments but he did not believe that Belize was “relieved” by the result. Our local reporters questioned the choices the coach made, but Mork advised that we have been “stuck” playing one way – defense – and in this case we can see better ball possession and movement leading to more chances. He stated that though there were things that could have been done better, but ultimately he was satisfied with what was done. The Jaguars return home tomorrow, Wednesday.