Guatemala were awarded the place in the finals which had originally been reserved for Mexico, who were the team to qualify from Guatemala’s group. However, due to the ‘cachirules scandal’, Mexico were banned from taking part in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and subsequently also from participating in the 1990 World Cup qualification and its ensuing finals.

The decision to remove Mexico from the tournament in South Korea was made on 30 June, and so the Guatemalan team only had two and a half months to prepare for the finals. Their concluding qualifier had taken place on 14 February (1988), and so they had needed to wait a long time until the decision was made to expel the Mexican team. The 1988 CONCACAF U20 championships, which had been the competition in which Mexico had been found to have used a number of over-age players, were held from 9 April to 24 April. It was actually held in Guatemala, and it is not impossible that rumours early began to circulate regarding Mexico’s breach of the rules, something which in turn could’ve put them on inofficial stand-by well before 30 June.

This was Guatemala’s second appearance in an Olympic Games football tournament, after they had negotiated the 1976 event in Canada in uplifting fashion, drawing twice, with Israel and Mexico, and only succumbing to France. 

Guatemala’s Olympic Games qualification:

Preliminary round:

17/5-87: Honduras (a) 2-1 – Monzón, Chacón
31/5-87: Honduras (h) 2-2 – Pérez (pen.), Chacón

Through to the final group stage after 4-3 on aggregate

Group stage:

18/10-87: Guyana (h) 6-0 – Chacón 3, Rivera, Funes, Westphal
25/10-87: Guyana (a) 3-0 – Chacón 2, Pérez
3/2-88: Mexico (a) 1-2 – Pérez
14/2-88: Mexico (h) 0-3

As Mexico won the three fixtures which they actually played, and were awarded both points as Guyana withdrew from the away fixture in Mexico, they won the group comfortably. Months later, they learnt of their fate, something which saw Guatemala take their place at the Olympic Games in South Korea.

The Guatemalans were paired with Zambia, Italy and Iraq in quite an exotic-looking group in South Korea. Their three fixtures were all played well away from Seoul, in Gwangju and Daejeon. This is how their results panned out:

17/9: Italy 2-5 – Castañeda, Paniagua
19/9: Iraq 0-3
21/9: Zambia 0-4

With three successive defeats and a total goal difference of 2-12, Guatemala exited the tournament with the worst record of all 16 contesting nations. Manager Jorge Roldán had brought this squad along:

1 Ricardo Jérez, goalkeeper, 32, Comunicaciones
2 Juan Manuel Dávila, defender, 25, Aurora
3 Allan Wellmann, defender, 34, Aurora
4 Rocael Mazariegos, defender, 22, Juventud Retalteca
5 Víctor Hugo Monzón, defender, 30, Aurora
6 Jaime Batres, midfielder, 24, Galcasa
7 Carlos Castañeda, midfielder, 25, Suchitepéquez
8 Juan Manuel Funes, midfielder, 22, Municipal
9 Adán Paniagua, forward, 32, Juventud Retalteca
10 Byron Pérez, forward, 29, Municipal
11 Norman Delva, midfielder, 19, Deportivo Izabal
12 Kevin Sandoval, midfielder, 26, Aurora
13 Luis López, midfielder, 37, Juventud Retalteca
14 Otoniel Guevara, midfielder, 28, Bandegua
15 Alejandro Ortíz, defender, 30, Suchitepéquez
16 David Gardiner, defender, 31, Galcasa
17 Julio Rodas, midfielder, 21, Municipal
18 Ricardo Piccinini, goalkeeper, 39, Municipal
19 Eddy Alburez, midfielder, 28, Galcasa

Their opening match loss against the Italians is available in full, and based on that game, Guatemala were in a 3-5-2 formation – thus: 

1 Jérez
4 Mazariegos – 3 Wellmann – 5 Monzón (c)
2 Dávila – 7 Castañeda – 8 Funes – 17 Rodas – 6 Batres
9 Paniagua – 10 Pérez