Game pitting Guatemala and Barbados will mean more than most expected

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The Independent Football

Some said they didn't have a chance. But on Saturday, Guatemala and Barbados will square off in the second round of qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup to be played in South Korea and Japan. The winner will likely be left alone atop the four-team division.

Some said they didn't have a chance. But on Saturday, Guatemala and Barbados will square off in the second round of qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup to be played in South Korea and Japan. The winner will likely be left alone atop the four-team division.

Soccer's powers-that-be thought Barbados wouldn't win any of its six games this round. Guatemala was expected to fair only marginally better.

The Caribbean island's national team, which has many amateur players, shocked perennial favorite Costa Rica 2-1 in Bridgetown July 16. The much-maligned Guatemalans managed a gritty 1-1 tie with the U.S. national team.

Last week's action earned Barbados three points and vaulted the team to the top of the qualifier's Group E division. Guatemala and the United States are tied for second with one point and Costa Rica is sitting scoreless in last place.

The current standings mean a Barbados win in Guatemala's second largest city, some 125 miles (200 km) southwest of Guatemala City, would give it a hefty six points.

"I don't think many people expected much of us or of them either," Barbados coach Horace Beckles said Friday. "Tomorrow's will be a game of two fighters."

The home team will brave chilly temperatures and an altitude of 2,700 meters (8,900 feet) above sea level in a game that is only about 35 miles (56 kilometers) - but a world away - from the tropical swelter of Mazatenango where it met the Americans just six days earlier.

Beckles said his team can handle Quetzaltenango's evening chill. What concerns him is the altitude.

"We will need to pace ourselves to keep from getting tired," Beckles said after watching his team drink lots of water during its second and final practice inside tiny Mariocamposeco Stadium, where only some 3,300 tickets have been sold for Saturday's game.

Guatemalan coach Julio Cesar Cortes brought his team here on Monday and says the thin air won't bother his players. Cortes said he expects this weekend's match to be a lot like last week's dogfight with the Americans.

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