Turkey 2013 is El Salvador’s first-ever trip to a FIFA U-20 World Cup, but the Central American country is no stranger to international achievement. Their senior national team qualified for the FIFA World Cup™ on two occasions, for Mexico 1970 and Spain 1982. They also finished runners-up in the old CONCACAF Championship in 1963 and won the UNCAF Cup of Nations, crowning the best national team in Central America, in 1995 and 2007.
The country’s footballing establishment has begun to focus on youth development in hopes of matching the likes of neighbours Honduras and Costa Rica for consistency in the Central American region. And their efforts have paid dividends, as the side, coached by Spain 1982 playing veteran Mauricio Alfaro, showed a great deal of panache and maturity to finish third in the CONCACAF U-20 qualifiers and book an historic place in the world finals. With speed through midfield, a sturdy defence, and a youngster who knows his way to goal and up the right flank in Jairo Henriquez, the Salvadorans will be no pushovers in Turkey.
As debutants, the U-20 World Cup will offer significant challenges for El Salvador as they try to come to grips with international opposition and the pressures of global competition. “We have an organised team and we have done our preparations correctly,” said Alfaro, who also coaches the country’s Olympic (U-23) side. “We will be looking to win, to show what we can do and to have our hard work pay off for us.”