Leading up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, El Salvador were pegged to be the surprise packages of the qualifying stages. With nearly three decades gone by since their last qualification for the FIFA World Cup, El Salvador entered the first stage of qualifying hopeful to restore confidence in their side. And they convinced in the first stage by seeing off Anguilla 16-0 on aggregate and knocking out a favoured Panama side in the second.
The Salvadorans ultimately missed out on their South Africa chance, though, as they finished the final 'hexagonal' round of qualifying in fifth place. They were unable to capitalise on a shaky performance from Costa Rica, which opened the door for an unlikely Honduran team to seize the final automatic qualification spot. Perhaps the more notable finish for the Salvadorans, was striker Rudis Corrales ten goals scored, which lead the qualifying campaign for all CONCACAF teams.
El Salvador had twice previously qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 1970 and 1982. El Salvador’s first attempt to qualify for the tournament was underlined by political tensions with Honduras, whom they met in the second qualifying round. El Salvador ended the better side of the two winning 3-2 after extra time in a play-off match in Mexico City.
FIFA World Cup finals history
It has been 29 years since El Salvador last made an appearance at the FIFA World Cup and although their place has been penned in the tournament's history, it has most often been due to unfortunate finishes. The Salvadorans lost all three of their group matches in 1970 and were particularly stung by a loss to host nation Mexico, in which El Tri scored off a controversial free-kick and went on to claim a 4-0 victory. In 1982, El Salvador’s World Cup misfortunes were multiplied by a 10-1 loss to Hungary - a record scoreline in the showpiece competition.
The current crop
The Salvadoran Football Association appointed Ruben Israel on 6 April 2011 as the national team’s manager. Israel’s first real test as coach came at the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup and although he had relatively little time to prepare, the manager was able to whip his team into shape for the regional event. A hard-earned draw against Costa Rica and a heavy win over Cuba saw El Salvador push through to the quarter-finals, where they only just missed out on a place in the semi-finals after a shoot-out loss to Panama. Israel has since been succeeded by Juan De Dios Castillo, who has been tasked with the lofty task of turning the sides fortunes in Brazil 2014 qualifying.
The key players
Alianza forward Rudis Corrales plays a critical goalscoring role for El Salvador, netting ten goals in the teams 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. Attacking midfielder Eliseo Quintanilla is also known to come through at critical moments and he notably scored El Salvador’s first goal against the USA in 11 years in a March 2009 qualifier. Rodolfo Zelaya will also have his confidence boosted after his three goals at the Gold Cup spurred the Salvadorans onto some impressive results.
Current coach: Juan De Dios Castillo
Best performances in a FIFA Competition: FIFA World Cup Mexico 1970, Spain 1982 (Group stages)
Former stars: Jorge ‘Magico’ Gonzalez, Luis Guevara Mora, Luis Ramirez Zapata