El Salvador beat Costa Rica 6-3 in the final of the CONCACAF qualifying competition for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Dubai 2009, the country's first ever success in a regional football tournament. In reaching the final both sides made sure of their place in the global showpiece event, which will take place from 16 to 22 November.
Tomas Hernandez with two, Jose Garay, Agustin Ruiz, Walter Torres and Francisco Velasquez scored La Selecta's goals in Sunday's final, while Los Ticos replied with a hat-trick from Greivin Pacheco. El Salvador's only tournament triumphs to date came in the UNCAF Nations Cup in 1995 and the 1932 and 2002 Central American and Caribbean Games. This, however, is the first time they have won any type of competition in the CONCACAF Zone.
"Compared to last year we have improved a lot," said winning captain Luis Rodas. "The experience we gained at the World Cup in Marseille against the top teams in the world helped us a lot."
The Salvadorans also took two of the individual awards, with Agustin Ruiz ending the tournament as top scorer with eight goals and Jose Portillo being named as best goalkeeper. The player of the tournament award went to Costa Rica's Richard Sterling.
Despite coming off second best in the final, Los Ticos we more than happy at having qualified for Dubai. "I can hardly believe that we're going to the World Cup," said their elated coach Chistian Ovares. "We deserve it more than anyone though. We beat Mexico on their home soil (in the semi-finals) and in front of hundreds of their fans, and now we're among the top 16 teams in the world."
The four-day tournament was held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and having reached the last four both the hosts and USA were expected to advance to the final. The two regional giants were toppled, however, with Mexico's qualification hopes coming to an end when they drew 2-2 with Costa Rica in normal time before going out in the penalty shootout. For the Costa Ricans it was the first time they have advanced to the finals in four attempts. In the other semi eventual champions El Salvador saw off the Americans 5-3.
That left the two heavyweights to battle it out for the consolation of third place in a game that took place in torrential rain. The Mexicans, who reached the final at Rio de Janeiro 2007, made home advantage count to beat their northern neighbours 5-4.
"It was raining very heavily but the fans stayed in their seats and cheered us on to victory," said a disappointed but thankful Mexico striker Gustavo Rosales. "We're very pleased to have won this game for the fans. They continued to support us even though we failed to qualify for the World Cup."