Nicaragua exudes belief ahead of Copa Centroamericana
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Nicaragua's Daniel Cadena (pictured) scored goals in consecutive friendlies against Trinidad & Tobago in December 2016. (Photo courtesy of Real Esteli)

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Nicaragua departed Wednesday for Panama – the site of the 2017 Copa Centroamericana -- with high hopes of qualifying for this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The top four teams in the final table will earn tickets to the prestigious event, while the side that finishes fifth will face Haiti, winner of the 2017 Scotiabank CFU Men’s Caribbean Cup fifth-place playoff, for one last berth.

Although Nicaragua has qualified for a single Gold Cup (2009) -- and has won only four of 39 all-time Copa Centroamericana games -- it’s confident of making a return.

“I think that Nicaragua has good football,” said attacker Juan Barrera, who plays for Guatemala’s Comunicaciones. “We are going to compete. We have a clear style. Our objective is to reach the Gold Cup.”

According to the 27-year-old, the honor of pulling on the Nicaragua jersey is incentive enough to achieve success in the 14th Copa Centroamericana.

“I am very proud,” Barrera finished. “We have felt the support of the fans and the truth is that it fills us up. It motivates us. It motivates us to be focused on this tournament. To wear the national team shirt is always a point of pride. For me it is the top of my career.”

Midfielder Manuel Rosas, a 33-year-old Real Esteli stalwart, echoed that sentiment: “We firmly believe that we are going to qualify, that we are going to give that joy to all of Nicaragua. We are going to return with our heads high because we will give everything on the field.”