ST KITTS AND NEVIS
Canadian city of comparable size: Shawinigan, QC (49,236)
Did you know? SK&N has their own little separatist problem, with the N having pushed for independence from the SK for some time now.
National team nickname: "The Sugar Boys"
FIFA ranking: 122nd
Best ever FIFA ranking: 108th (July 2004)
ELO ranking: 158 (as of 3 August 2011)
National team coach: Lester Morris
HOW THEY GOT HERE:
The Sugar Boys were among the top 24 sides in CONCACAF as of March 2011 and were thus exempted from the first knockout qualifying round. Their most recent match was a 1-0 win on October 26th against Group D mates Puerto Rico.
# of players on team that I've heard of: 1. Atiba Harris is a winger/forward with the Vancouver Whitecaps who scored 2 goals in 5 games earlier this season before getting injured. He has 9 goals in 25 games for his national team. I'll need a Whitecaps fan to let me know whether he's expected to be healthy by the time of this year's qualifiers.
Best players, judging by professional pedigree: Apart from Harris, only a handful of players even have club sides listed on the national team's wikipedia page. None are clubs that I've heard of. However, Keith "Bleeding" Gumbs has scored an impressive 47 goals in 131 caps (impressive, that is, until you remember those goals have been scored against the likes of St Lucia, Aruba, Turks and Caicos, etc.)
Canada's history against St Kitts and Nevis: Canada has never played against St Kitts and Nevis.
PREDICTION: In both sets of rankings, the Sugar Boys rate as the toughest opponent Canada will face in this round. But I have a hard time imagining a team that features Atiba Harris as far and away their best player giving Canada too much trouble. Maybe they might nick a goal at home, but frankly if Canada doesn't take the full 6 points from St Kitts and Nevis, and at least 15 points in the group, I'll be quite disappointed.
The two matches will be the last two of the group, so if things are done and dusted by then, the competitive balance might shift a bit, but not so much as to make a Canada loss a realistic possibility.
DATES (home team first)
11 November 2011: St Kitts and Nevis vs Canada
15 November 2011: Canada vs St Kitts and Nevis (BMO Field, Toronto, ON)
Know your enemy #2: The Blue Hurricane (Puerto Rico)
Know your enemy #3: The Sugar Boys (St Kitts and Nevis)