June 27 – Guatemala coach Luis Tena believes that the Gold Cup will provide the perfect opportunity to showcase the strength of his national team, but warned that Cuba will be a stern test for his side in Group D.
In 2021 Guatemala lost in the preliminary play-offs, initially missing out on a place in the group stage before being called back in after Curacao were withdrawn after the bulk of their squad tested positive for covid.
The Guatemalans since then have been building their young squad off that experience.
“There’s more quality in Guatemala than even they believe,” said Tena at a news conference. “I think this is the right tournament to demonstrate that. The team is in a very good position. They’re very devoted. Our tour last week was quite good.”
His team warmed up with a 1-0 defeat to Venezuela and a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica and against Cuba on Tuesday they will seek to put the statistic of never having won their opening match in 12 Gold Cup participations behind them. In Group D, they will also face power house Canada and play-off qualifier Guadeloupe.
Having coached Cruz Azul and Guadalajara among others in his native Mexico, Tena did not want to speculate on Guatemala’s targets in the tournament. In 1996, the Central American nation reached the semi-finals to finish fourth, but in the 2021 tournament, the Guatemaltecos crashed out in the first round, finishing bottom of a strong group with Mexico, El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago.
“The goal is to play good football and that millions of Chapinas fans feel proud, that they see a team that plays with intensity, commitment and devotion, and that knows how to play the ball,” said Tena.
He will be counting heavily on star player and striker Rubio Mendez, who plies his trade at Real Salt Lake in the US and top-scored for his team in the Nations League B with three goals. The squad is largely made up of home-based players.
The Cubans bring back bad memories for Tena and his team. In 2015, the islanders knocked Guatemala out of the Gold Cup with a 1-0 victory in the group stages. A student of the opponent, Tena also acknowledged that Cuba have progressed, predicting a close affair.
“They have grown greatly,” said Tena. “They are very ordered. They developed their front game very well with good counter-attacks. It will be a very close and even match.”
“We don’t believe we are better than them,” added captain José Pinto.
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