Carlos Estrada (blue jersey) and Guatemala fell just short in their bid to qualify for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup. (Photo: Mexsport)
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – Guatemala fell short of its goal of reaching the next FIFA U-20 World Cup, when it dropped a narrow 2-1 decision to Honduras in a 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship playoff on Saturday.
Throughout the competition, head coach Carlos Ruiz proved masterful in roster utilization and the creation of game plans, giving the Guatemalans every opportunity to win in each of its six outings.
Securing a ticket to New Zealand would have been a crowning achievement for the 48-year-old, who was handed the managerial reins in October. The appointment came just a little more than two months after the Chapines secured Central America’s fourth and last berth to the CONCACAF event on a tiebreaker over Costa Rica.
“I’m very disappointed with the game,” said Ruiz, following the loss to Honduras. “They (his players) have worked hard throughout the tournament and they worked really hard for each game. The two last games, we have lost them, but they worked really hard to win them. They worked really hard to go to the World Cup. Even though they’ve had a very good tournament, it wasn’t what we expected.
“One team has to win, one team has to lose and, unfortunately, we were on the losing end. Of course, the dream of going to the World Cup went away with that.”
Ruiz’s squad went undefeated in its first four games in Jamaica, opening with a draw against the United States on a dramatic late equalizer off the foot of Andy Ruiz, before reeling off three straight wins. It fell 1-0 to eventual finalist Panama in its last Group A outing and was then ousted by the Hondurans.
An outstanding defense that conceded only two goals in five group matches, tactical acumen and solid team play are just some of the reasons why Ruiz is confident that this group of Guatemalan footballers can continue to move up the football ladder.
“I believe that we had a fantastic tournament,” the proud Ruiz finished. “Coming into the tournament, we knew that we weren’t as physically capable or as fast as the other teams. We used tactical discipline to overcome that and we played well as a team. Of course, we will continue in that vein.”