Thailand 2012 will be Guatemala’s third FIFA Futsal World Cup, and they will travel to the Far East aiming to continue their steady improvement at this level. The team's first appearance, as hosts in 2000, ended ignominiously, with a thumping 29-2 defeat to Brazil having taken the shine off a historic first-ever win in their previous match against Kazakhstan. It was a very different story four years ago though, with the Central Americans more than holding their own amid esteemed company. Finishing third in their five-team section saw Los Chapines just miss out on a place in the second round, but they headed for home with having beaten Egypt (1-0) and thrashed China PR (10-1), with a goal difference of plus-five.
Although they qualified comfortably for Thailand 2012, Guatemala ended July’s CONCACAF Futsal Championship disappointed after relinquishing their continental crown on home soil. Eduardo Estrada’s side had gone into the tournament as favourites, and justified that status during the group phase and semi-finals, but a narrow 3-2 final defeat to Costa Rica cost them the title. Nonetheless, four wins from five – with 19 goals scored and just nine conceded – suggests Strada’s team are in good shape for November’s Asian expedition.
For everyone connected with Los Chapines, Thailand 2012 is being seen a means by which they can strengthen their country’s position as a regional futsal stronghold. The formation of a domestic championship, the Liga Nacional de Futsal, in 2003 has been a major boost to the discipline in Guatemala, but Strada knows that only continued success will ensure that this momentum is maintained. He said: "The impact [of the league] is big, but everything is based on how the national team does. It has awakened the interest of many young people who were already playing futsal and now want to win a spot on the national team."
Facts and figures
Alan Josue Aguilar, Humberto Armando Escobar, Jose Rafael Gonzalez
Qualification in numbers
Guatemala cruised through the group stage at the 2012 CONCACAF Futsal Champions with three straight victories against Canada (7-3), Panama (5-2) and USA (2-1). The semi-finals were negotiated just as comfortably thanks to a 3-0 win over Mexico, and it was only at the last hurdle that Strada’s team fell, with Costa Rica winning by the odd goal in five.
6,131– The noisy capacity crowd that packed out Guatemala City’s Domo Polideportivo for Los Chapines’ qualifying matches, setting a new continental record and emphasising the passion for futsal in this Central American nation.