CONCACAF throws up a surprise

While the idea of El Salvador participating in a FIFA World Cup ™ may seem fanciful to younger football fans, their older counterparts can testify to their twice having graced football's premier tournament (Mexico 1970 and Spain 1982), not to mention the Men's Olympic Football Tournament, which they qualified for in 1968.

Now, 26 years after their last appearance at a FIFA tournament, the Central American country is once again preparing for a star turn on the global stage thanks to last week's qualification for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Marseille 2008.

"God was on our side and we must thank Him for that," said forward Elias Ramirez on behalf of his El Salvadorian team-mates. "He gave us the strength we needed to pull off some great results."

El Salvador had further reason to celebrate since Jose Ruiz was the tournament's top scorer with five goals.

Mexico again proved that they are the confederation's power-house by easing to victory in all of their matches, including a prestigious friendly match to round off the tournament that saw them beat a world team 5-2.

"We had five wonderful days and didn't lose a match," said Mexican star Morgan Plata after the competition. "We made the most of every second and are delighted we entertained our fans the way we did."

The USA supporters on the other hand are far less satisfied with their lot at the moment. After qualifying for the last three FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups, the Americans came up short this time around, despite some excellent performances from Mario Anthony Chimienti. Roberto Ceciliano's men have a number of lessons to take home with them if they are to do better this time next year.

CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship 2008

First round
USA 7-2 Costa Rica
El Salvador 2-4 Mexico

Second round
USA 5-6 El Salvador
Mexico 7-0 Costa Rica

Third round
Costa Rica 3-4 El Salvador (aet)
Mexico 2-1 USA

Mexico, 9 pts +10 *
El Salvador, 5 pts 0 *
USA, 3 pts +3
Costa Rica, 0 pts -13

* Qualified for Marseille 2008