After hosting the event in 2000, Guatemala are making their second appearance at a FIFA Futsal World Cup at this month's event in Brazil. Last time on home soil, a single win in three group matches was not sufficient for the team to progress to the knock-out stages of the tournament. Yet coach Carlos Eduardo Estrada and team manager Enrique Paiz Bonifasi are confident of going one better at this year's edition, as they told FIFA.com.
"There have been a lot of changes in the Guatemalan setup since the 2000 World Cup. The start of the domestic league in 2000 has made things much more professional. While in 2000 we were still using footballers, this year we've got a team consisting purely of dedicated futsal players. Qualifying for this year's tournament is the Guatemalan Football Association's greatest achievement to date."
Estrada, meanwhile, is keeping his aims realistic for the tournament, which is taking place in South America for the first time. "We know that we're not going to be the world champions but we still want to put in a convincing performance and reach the second round at least. Even though Argentina are a strong team and both Ukraine and Egypt have plenty of World Cup experience between them, we're not overly concerned."
Guatemala's opening encounter against Egypt in Brasilia on Wednesday pits them against one of the strongest teams on the African continent. "We don't know a lot about Egypt but we'll be concentrating on playing our game from the outset. We're capable, though, of adapting our game depending on how they play," said Estrada.
Guatemala will be looking to three players in particular, all of whom were present at the tournament eight years ago, to play a key role for the Chapines in Brazil. "The experience that goalkeeper Carlos Merida, midfielder Erick Acevedo and captain and defender Estuardo de Leon bring with them can only be advantageous for the whole team," said team manager Bonifasi.
After claiming the CONCACAF Futsal title in June in front of 7,000 partisan spectators on home soil, Guatemala should not feel intimidated by playing in the imposing arena in Brasilia. "We know what it's like to play in front of a big crowd. It doesn't bother us if we have to play in front of a lot of people or just a few," Estrada told FIFA.com.
Two days after the game against the North Africans, Guatemala take on Ukraine before going on to meet China PR on 7 October. Their final group stage game on 9 October sees them take on Argentina, the fourth-placed team from the FIFA Futsal World Cup Chinese Taipei 2004.
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How far do you think Guatemala can go at 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup Brazil? Are Carlos Eduardo Estrada's team capable of springing a surprise?