These rising Central American powers can trace their origins back to a group of football-loving local fishermen. And the Salvadorans have gone a long way since then. They qualified for the 2008 and 2009 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups, gaining important experience, before bursting to life in earnest at the most recent event in Italy in 2011, where they finished an amazing fourth after stunning the established powers by reaching the semi-finals.
Led by the outstanding Frank Velasquez, who finished the 2011 world finals with the Bronze Ball and Bronze Shoe as third top-scorer and third best-player, The Salvadorans were outside favourites to edge Mexico at the recent CONCACAF qualifying event. They did manage to best the Mexicans in a semi-final classic for the ages, but they came up a goal short in extra time of the final, losing out to a resurgent USA. Even so, the Central Americans are looking in fine fettle to go a long way again once the ball gets rolling in Tahiti.
At the global extravaganza in the South Seas, El Salvador will rely heavily on the outstanding Velasquez, but he is in no way the team’s only star. Agustin Ruiz is a solid and sturdy presence in the centre of the pitch and his classy performances in the Bahamas saw him named best player of the CONCACAF qualifying competition.