North, Central America and Caribbean
Guatemala have been on the brink of FIFA World Cup™ qualification on more than one occasion, but unlike traditional Central American rivals El Salvador and Honduras, have never qualified for the big show. Due to lacklustre results in the semi-final round of 2010 qualifying, including just one win over Cuba and two draws with Trinidad and Tobago for a grand total of five points, Los Chapines finished behind the USA and T&T for a place in the final ‘hexagonal’ round.
The Central American’s enjoyed a better run of results leading up to Germany 2006 as they advanced to the final qualifying round. The Guatemalans cruised past Suriname with a 4-2 aggregate victory in the second stage, and battled past regional rivals Honduras and Canada to seal their final round appearance alongside neighbours Costa Rica. A poor run of five losses, including two defeats to Mexico, kept Guatemala out of yet another World Cup finals tournament as they watched the USA, Mexico and Costa Rica advance.
The current crop
Since experiencing a high in quality five years ago in 2006 qualifying, manager Ever Hugo Almeida was tasked with rebuilding Guatemala’s prowess in the CONCACAF region. Headlining the coach’s call-ups was Carlos Ruiz, who had retired in 2009. The veteran striker joined Guatemala for the 2011 Copa Centroamericana (Central America’s cup of nations), where the tough-tackling and physical Guatemalans sealed a place in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup where they ended up only just losing out in the quarter-final round to eventual champions Mexico.
The key players
Los Angeles Galaxy's 2005 MLS Cup hero Guillermo Ramirez is Guatemala’s most experienced player and captained the team during 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying. Carlos Ruiz, known as El Pescadito, plays for Philadelphia Union in MLS and while among the top ten scorers in that league's history, is also the all-time leading goalscorer for his country. At the other end of the field, Guatemala are relying on veteran defender Gustavo Cabrera to lead an otherwise young and inexperienced backline.
Current coach: Ever Hugo Almeida
Best performance in a FIFA competition: Men's Olympic Football Tournament Mexico City 1968 (Quarter-finals)
Former stars: Juan Carlos Plata, Oscar Enrique Sanchez, Byron Perez