CONCACAF: Tough homecoming for Maradiaga
Posted: Tuesday September 7, 2004 8:08PM; Updated: Tuesday September 7, 2004 8:08PM
RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 7 (Reuters) -- Former Honduras coach Ramon Maradiaga faces a difficult homecoming on Wednesday when he leads his new team Guatemala into a competitive match against his homeland for the first time.
Guatemala, who lead Group B in the second stage of the CONCACAF zone World Cup qualifying competition, take on their neighbours in San Pedro Sula with the leadership of the section at stake.
Guatemala are unbeaten in nine matches and the man known as The Primitive has raised hopes that he can take them to their first World Cup finals.
Optimism has increased after the team began the group by winning 2-0 in Canada and then beat arch-rivals Costa Rica 2-1 on Sunday.
"I hope I can take Guatemala to the World Cup," said Maradiaga, who played for Honduras when they made their only World Cup finals appearance in 1982 and was coach of the side which famously beat Brazil at the Copa America in 2001.
Guatemala lead the group with six points, followed by Honduras with four, Canada with one and Costa Rica, who have yet to get off the mark.
The top two go into the final stage of the CONCACAF qualifiers to be played next year.
Canada travel to San Jose to face Costa Rica on Wednesday in a match neither team can afford to lose.
Despite their miserable start, Costa Rica are confident they can scramble into the final stages. Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto believes 10 points from their last four matches will be enough.
"There are still chances to qualify, although it's difficult to believe after two defeats," said striker Paulo Wanchope after Sunday's game.
"There's no time to be sorry. The good thing is we have another game straight away to get it off our chests."
Canada defender Jason deVos, who scored in the 1-1 draw with Honduras on Saturday, is suspended after receiving two yellow cards. Costa Rica striker Andy Herron is also out after being sent off in Guatemala.
In the evening's other matches, Mexico, whose first two games were postponed, are finally set to enter the fray away to Trinidad and Tobago in Group C.
The Soca Warriors, who have six points, are the only team with any points in the group after winning in St Vincent and the Grenadines and in St Kitts and Nevis, who meet in Kingstown.
Group A leaders the United States, who have four points, have a tricky match in Panama, who threw the section wide open with their 2-1 win in Jamaica on Saturday.
The Reggae Boyz, who have one point, desperately need a good result in El Salvador, who are level on three with Panama.
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