Arch-rivals Mexico and USA will be favourites when the CONCACAF Gold Cup kicks off on Sunday 5th June. El Tri and the Yanks have won eight of the ten previous competitions, a biennial cup of nations for North, Central America and the Caribbean zone. Mexico are defending champions, having humiliated the host USA two years ago with a 5-0 hammering in the final in New Jersey. Back then, however, both the Mexicans and the USA took second-string sides to the Gold Cup and, as a result, the tournament was not the spectacle it might have been. This time out, spread across 13 venues in the United States, there will be no depleted squads, no excuses and no half measures as the 12 participating nations vie for a single place at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.
The 3-week tournament will host most of Europe’s football stars and I want to have a look at the key men who a greater chance of setting the tournament alight and making it a spectacle. Group A will see teams like Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Cuba lock horns against each other for the title.
Los Cuscatlecos, who haven’t made it out of group play in eight years, will have the odds stacked against them once again. For the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification process, the team passed the first round by defeating the weak selection of Anguilla (12–0 and 4–0) and surprisingly, in the next round, eliminated Panama (0–1 and 3–1). By August 2008 they played the third phase against Costa Rica, Haiti and Suriname, after which they were in second place.
El Salvador and five other teams that reached the fourth round formed one double-round-robin, home-and-away group. The top three teams qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. After the qualifying round (final stage) the team was in fifth, with eight points.
In addition to dealing with heavyweights Mexico and Costa Rica, the Salvadorans must also get adjusted to their third head coach since 2009. El Salvador qualified for the Gold Cup by placing fourth in the Copa Centroamericana, where Salvadoran striker Rafael Burgos scored three times to capture the Golden Boot. At the 2011 Copa Centroamericana,El Salvador achieved fourth place. Los Cuscatlecos defeated Nicaragua (2–0) and Belize (5–2), and lost against Panama 2–0. At the semifinals they lost, once again by a 2–0 score. In the third place match, they lost to Panama in a penalty shootout by a score of 4–5. The team was coached by José Luis Rugamas. They were able to qualify to the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
El Salvador has never qualified for a FIFA World Cup. They declined to participate at the 1950 FIFA World Cup, a decision they will regret today.In 1963 El Salvador participated in the first CONCACAF Championship which included all countries of the region, North America, Central America and the Caribbean. El Salvador achieving only a runner-up in 1963. In the 2002 and 2003 events El Salvador reached the Quarter-finals.
This is 23 man squad for the tournament:
Goalkeepers: Dagoberto Portillo (Once Municipal), Miguel Ángel Montes (Metapán),Juan José Gómez (Firpo).
Defenders: Marvin René González (Águila), Luis Anaya ( Universidad de El Salvador), Moisés Xavier García (Luis Angel Firpo), Steve Purdy (Portland Timbers/USA), Deris Ariel Umanzor (Águila),Reynaldo Hernández (Vista Hermosa), Víctor Samuel Turcios (Luis Angel Firpo)
Midfielders: Dennis Jonathan Alas (Luis Angel Firpo), Gilberto Baires (Marte), Jaime Enrique Alas (Firpo), Eliseo Quintanilla (Luis Angel Firpo), Ramón Sánchez (Aguila), William Osael Romero (Aguila),Shawn Martin (Águila).
Forwards: Edwin Sánchez (Universidad de El Salvador), Andrés Flores (Metapán), Rodolfo Zelaya (Alianza), Arturo Álvarez (Real Salt Lake/USA) ,Rudis Corrales (Alianza),Léster Blanco (Isidro Metapán)
Marvin, Alvarez and Corrales are the men El Salvador is looking up to.
Águila defender Marvin René González Leiva has seen it all with Los Cuscatlecos when it comes to international football. The 29 year old defender made his debut for El Salvador in a November 2002 friendly match against the United States and has since then never looked back. He has earned a total of 82 caps, scoring 1 goal. He has represented his country in 22 FIFA World Cup qualification matches and played at the 2003]and 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cups.
A leader from the back, Marvin will be the man to initiate Los Cuscatlecos’ attacks.
Rudis Alberto Corrales Rivera holds the key to El Salvador’s success in the Gold Cup.He is one of seven players to score 100 goals in the Salvadoran league
Corrales made his debut for El Salvador in May 2001 against Nicaragua and he has amassed a total of 72 caps, scoring 17 goals. He has represented his country in 20 FIFA World Cup qualification matches and played at the 2002, 2003 and 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cups.
On February 6, 2008 in a FIFA World Cup qualification match against Anguilla, Corrales became the first player in Salvadoran history to score five goals in a World Cup qualifier. The previous record was held by legendary Salvadoran striker Raúl Díaz Arce, who had scored four goals against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. He made his most memorable goal on a FIFA World Cup qualification match against Costa Rica on September 9, 2009. Scoring a goal at the 90th minute that gave life back to El Salvador in this Qualification Stage. Rudis Corrales was top goalscorer of the qualification process with 8 in total. Will he score against them this time again?
The American-born Salvadoran footballer, Arturo Alvarez currently plays for Real Salt Lake in the MLS.Alvarez represented the United States in various youth levels – U-17, U-18,U-20 and U-23.
Though Alvarez played in various United States national squads at the youth level, he was never called up to the senior national team. Being of Salvadoran descent, Alvarez was invited to play for the El Salvador national team by coach Carlos de los Cobos. On August 12, 2009, Alvarez made his debut for El Salvador in a World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago. On September 5, 2009, Alvarez started in a World Cup qualifier against his home country at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. El Salvador fell, 2–1.