Guatemala will lead the charge in CONCACAF’s Round 2 Group E, hoping to take a step toward their first-ever place at a FIFA World Cup™ finals in Brazil in 2014. Chasing the Chapines will be Central American neighbours Belize and Caribbean hopefuls St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, all of whom have shown steady improvement of late.
Guatemala enter as firm favourites to take top spot and are hoping to fare better than they did in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, where they failed to reach the final six-team ‘hexagonal’ round. Coach Ever Hugo Almeida can take heart in his side’s quarter-final run at the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States where his side, led by veteran striker Carlos Ruiz, were only just eliminated after a tense clash with eventual champions Mexico.
Grenada: They are climbing up the pecking order of the CONCACAF ladder, having finished runners-up at the 2008 instalment of the Caribbean Cup and fourth last time out in 2010 to make their first appearances at the region’s showpiece Gold Cup. With a more professional set-up than in previous FIFA World Cup qualifying cycles and the likes of USA-based Shalrie Joseph and Craig Rocastle in the side, Mike Adams’ men are set to spring a surprise.
Player to watch
Carlos Ruiz (GUA)
The crunch match
Island sides St Vincent and the Grenadines and have met Grenada on no fewer than 16 occasions with an even split across the board. Each side has won five and lost six with five contests ending in draws.
A look back
Guatemala have came agonisingly close to qualifying for the FIFA World Cup finals, only to fall short. Their best chance came in qualifying for Germany 2006, where they were just pipped by Trinidad and Tobago to a place in an intercontinental play-off.
Did you know?
One of Central America’s lesser lights, Belize are led by a quartet of professionals plying their trade in Honduras. Veteran goalkeeper Shane Orio is joined by Elroy Kuylen, Elroy Smith and Deon McCauley in the relatively rarefied air of the Honduran top flight.
Have your say
Will Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Belize be able to continue their upward mobility in CONCACAF or will Guatemala re-assert their authority?