Guatemala’s qualification for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 represents an historic first for the central American country. While Los Chapines have twice appeared at the FIFA Futsal World Cup, qualifying in 2008 and hosting the event in 2000, they have only graced the finals of the Olympics, on three occasions, in terms of FIFA competitions. Frequent participants in the region’s age-category qualifying tournaments, Guatemala have twice finished runners-up at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship and managed podium finishes on another three occasions.
Never before have Guatemala been as happy with a third-place finish as that achieved with their defeat of Panama in April’s CONCACAF qualifying tournament on home soil. Making the most of home advantage, Hugo Almeida’s side followed the script to ensure their presence in Colombia. Having set themselves the goal of qualifying, Guatemala began inauspiciously with a 3-1 reverse at the hands of Honduras, before bouncing back with a 2-0 win over Jamaica to set up a quarter-final showdown against USA. With a ticket to Colombia up for grabs, the hosts came good with a sensational 2-1 defeat of the Stars and Stripes, sparking joyous scenes of celebration at the Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City. However, their dreams of a regional title were abruptly cut short by Costa Rica, who downed them 2-1 in their semi-final two days later. Guatemala would finish the qualifiers on a high, though, prevailing against Panama on penalties in the match for third place (0-0, 7-6).
While Guatemala have already achieved much by just qualifying and will see anything else as a bonus, they will nonetheless head into the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 intent on putting on a good performance. The squad have in Almeida a vastly experienced coach who will doubtless prepare them well for the challenges ahead. With balance throughout the side, the central Americans are capable of defending resolutely when the need arises, and can get forward quickly to exploit spaces with their measured passing. “We’ll be giving it everything we’ve got. Our goal is obviously to win and bring some happiness to a lot of people,” said the coach after securing qualification.
|6||Jose DEL AGUILA|