With a perfect 3-0 record in the group stage of the Central America Cup, Guatemala arrives to the final where Saturday the country will face World Cup quarterfinalists Costa Rica.
Guatemala has never even qualified for a World Cup but the team will try to stun the Ticos in the Los Angeles Coliseum at 10 p.m. The two nations square off after Honduras plays Nicaragua for fifth place and El Salvador takes on Panama for third place earlier in the day.
Costa Rica came into the tournament as the big favorite after a historic run in the World Cup. However, the Ticos’ performance has underwhelmed. They beat Nicaragua 3-0 and barely managed a 2-2 draw with Panama.
By contrast, Guatemala obtained three resounding victories over rivals Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. The Guatemalans also have the best goaler scorer in the tournament in midfielder Marco Pappa (four goals).
Guatemala and Costa Rica will be battling for something more than just the regional title. The winner also receives a spot in the Centennial Cup America — an Americas-wide tournament that will occur in the United States in 2016.
The top four finishers at the Central America Cup (Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama and El Salvador) automatically qualified for next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup as well. The winner between Nicaragua and Honduras will play the Caribbean Cup’s fifth place team for an additional Gold Cup spot.
“We knew what we could achieve,” Pappa said. “It’s a good group, we come to the final and now we’re working to make history.”
Guatemala has won the Central America Cup once before, in 2001. For Costa Rica, winning the title is an obligation after its performance in Brazil over the summer, where La Sele defeated favorites like Italy and Uruguay to reach the World Cup quarterfinals.
The Tico roster only includes a few players that actually saw action in the World Cup. Still, Costa Rica appeared to have a huge edge in talent entering the tournament. In the end, the team did just enough to reach the final.
“It is the goal that we dreamed, we are in the final. It was tough, this tournament was always going to be complicated, but we have the conviction to be champions,” said new La Sele coach Paulo Wanchope.