Carlos Ruiz will always remember 6 September 2016. After all, how could the Guatemalan forget the day on which he not only won his last cap for his country, whom he represented proudly for 18 years, but also became the leading goalscorer in FIFA World Cup™ qualifying history?
By grabbing five goals in Guatemala's 9-3 victory over St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in the final set of fixtures in the fourth round of North, Central America and Caribbean Zone qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, the seasoned striker took his tally in World Cup preliminaries to 39, surpassing former Iranian international Ali Daei's previous record of 35.
It is true that this emphatic win was not enough to take Guatemala into the Hexagonal, the final stage of CONCACAF qualifying. However, no one can deny that the *Los Chapines *captain did everything in his power to try to lead his country to the global extravaganza for the first time.
The forward, who is on the verge of turning 37, made his international debut on 18 November 1998. He went on to score eight goals in Korea/Japan 2002 qualifying, ten on the road to Germany 2006, six in the South Africa 2010 preliminaries, a further six in the battle to reach Brazil 2014 and nine in Russia 2018 qualifying.
El Pescadito (The Little Fish), as he is widely known, racked up his historic tally in 47 qualifiers, compared to the 55 in which Daei managed his tally. In all he scored 68 goals in 133 appearances in a Guatemala shirt.
Ruiz, who is currently without a club but intends to continue playing professionally, gave the following explanation regarding his decision to retire from international football: "I feel full of nostalgia when I look back to the beginning, but this is the right time to call it quits. I have to be sensible: I'm almost 37 and I know that I can contribute more off the pitch."
Having bowed out with five goals in front of his adoring fans, claiming a world record in the process, the veteran's send-off was certainly the stuff that dreams are made of.