El Salvador’s World Cup qualification 

World Cup participants in 1982, El Salvador were certainly not without an international pedigree, but it remained to be seen whether the current crop of players could replicate what their predecessors from early in the decade had achieved. That group of players which had taken part in Spain, where they had arrived only the day prior to their humiliating 10-1 loss against Hungary in their opening tie, had perhaps not left Europe on the best of notes, even if they had improved against the Belgians (0-1) and the Argentinians (0-2) subsequently.

El Salvador were one of the countries given a bye in the first preliminary round of the World Cup qualification, and so they entered the competition in the second preliminary round, where the Netherlands Antilles were their opponents. The first leg was played in Willemstad, the capital of the Antilles, situated on its main island Curaçao, on October 1 1988: 

Netherlands Antilles 0-1 El Salvador
Goal: Ricardo García (53′)
Attendance: 3311
Line-up: Luis Guevara Mora – Giovanni Martínez Trigueros, Leonel Cárcamo, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Nelson Rivera (Juan Ramón Pacheco), Fernando Lazo, Jorge Abrego, Ricardo García, Luis Ramírez Zapata (Dagoberto López), Salvador Coreas Privado, Osmel Zapata

The El Salvadorian coach at this point was a 40 year old Yugoslav by the name of Miroslav Vukašinović from the Zlatibor district of today’s Serbia. He had succeeded his fellow countryman Milovan Đorić only the previous month, and so this was just Vukašinović’ second game in charge. His first had been a 0-0 friendly against neighbours Honduras on neutral ground in Los Angeles, USA. Đorić, by the way, had led El Salvador’s failed attempt at reaching the 1988 Olympic Games football tournament.

Nothing less than progress into the group stage of the World Cup qualification, which at the same time doubled as the 1989 CONCACAF championships, was expected following that 1-0 away win on the island just off the north shore of the Venezuelan coast. The return leg took place in San Salvador on October 16: 

El Salvador 5-0 Netherlands Antilles
Goals: Coreas Privado (5′), García (35′), Zapata (48′), Ramírez Zapata 2 (58′, 68′)
Attendance: 40,000
Line-up: Luis Guevara Mora – Giovanni Martínez Trigueros, Leonel Cárcamo, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Nelson Rivera (William Chachagua), Fernando Lazo, Jorge Abrego, Ricardo García, Luis Ramírez Zapata, Salvador Coreas Privado (Dagoberto López), Osmel Zapata

So it was an identical starting eleven to the one which had taken to the field on the island of Curaçao 15 days earlier. Of the 14 players who had featured over the two legs were two men who had played in all three of their games during the 1982 World Cup: goalkeeper Guevara Mora and 34 year old forward Ramírez Zapata, nicknamed Pelé, who had indeed scored their goal coming on as an early substitute during that awful 10-1 drubbing at the hands of the Hungarians. With a handsome 6-0 aggregate win, El Salvador had safely negotiated their passage through to the qualification group stage, which would only commence next year.