Llena sees growth with Nicaragua
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Head coach Enrique Llena (pictured) will guide Nicaragua into the Central American Cup's fifth-place match on September 13, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo: Mexsport)

HOUSTON, Texas – Despite two defeats in as many games in the 2014 Central American Cup (CCA), Nicaragua head coach Enrique Llena sees growth within his team.

On the heels of losses to Costa Rica (3-0) and Panama (2-0), the Pinoleros finished third in Group B and will meet Honduras in Saturday’s match for fifth place.  The winner of that encounter will face the fifth-place team from November’s Caribbean Cup finals for a spot in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

“Three years ago, after a match, which one I don’t remember, from the World Cup qualifiers for Brazil, I said that the national team of Nicaragua was in diapers,” said Llena.  “Now I have to say that the diapers have been taken off, and we have grown.  Many say that now Nicaragua has to be with Panama or Costa Rica, but it’s not like that, but we have left the diapers behind and it is no longer easy to beat Nicaragua.” 

The Spaniard also stated that Nicaragua’s era of transition continues and that their objective is to be able to compete for a berth in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. 

“We continue in this transition of becoming a bit bigger,” Llena commented.  “We can qualify at any moment for any competition or event, but we also may not qualify.  The World Cup in Qatar, not Russia, is one where we can project for and dream of possibly qualifying.”

With the 2022 far in the future, Nicaragua must first confront the short term, when it takes on 2014 FIFA World Cup participant Honduras at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

“We have to get the win,” concluded Llena.  “Anything else means nothing.”

Nicaragua qualified for its only Gold Cup after defeating Guatemala 2-0 in the 2009 CCA’s fifth-place match.