El Salvador head coach Ramon Maradiaga speaks to the press on November 11, 2015. (Photo courtesy of the Federación Salvadoreña de Fútbol)
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – There’s a lot that needs to be reviewed and refined, when a team is trying to reach a World Cup for the first time since 1982.
The introduction of new coach into the process less than two months before opening the next phase of qualifying, however, heightens the sense of urgency. There is, after all, little time to waste.
Ramon Maradiaga was put in charge of El Salvador at the end of September and the Cuscatlecos have played only two friendlies (3-1 loss v Haiti, 1-1 draw v Guatemala) in advance of kicking off the fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Friday at Mexico.
“We were aware that in its group, El Salvador was going to be considered the victim,” said the former Honduras midfielder and head coach. “El Salvador can evolve. It can have a good tournament, knowing that we face a group where Honduras and Canada, in the opinion of many, are ahead of El Salvador. So for that, we are going to dare to overcome these opponents.”
Opening on the road against the CONCACAF Gold Cup champion could prove to be a blessing in disguise. Maradiaga understands the extent of the challenge, but it may allow his side to compete without the pressures of needing an immediate win.
“For us, anything that happens is a plus and we are going to play with an attitude of knowing that there is no invincible team,” the 61-year-old commented. “We are aware of the players that Mexico has, but they can make mistakes just the same. If we pay attention during the match, there will be things of which we can take advantage.”
In four 2018 qualifiers thus far, El Salvador is unbeaten with a 3W-1D-0L record. That streak is one Maradiaga would like to see extended at the Estadio Azteca.
He concluded: “Avoiding a loss [would be a good result], as well as establishing the team with a good performance and a good attitude.”