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Gold Cup nations you may not know: Nicaragua

Saturday 8th July 2017
This is the fourth and final piece in a series on Gold Cup nations you might not have known existed. If you missed the posts on Curacao, French Guiana, and Martinique, they can be found here, here, and here, respectively. Now, however, it's Nicaragua's turn.

The other three entries in this series were all Caribbean countries. Nicaragua is in Central America, bordering Honduras and Costa Rica. The country became independent from Spain in 1821. Officially known as the Republic of Nicaragua, its territory covers 50,000 square miles and boasts a population over 6 million.

In the United States, Nicaragua is best known for its Sandinista regime, which overthrew former President Somoza, in 1979. The CIA illegally armed and financed Contra rebels, with covert aid from cocaine cartels, in an attempt to remove the Sandinistas from power. The scandal led to a Congressional investigation at which both President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George HW Bush, a former CIA Director, were subpoenaed to testify.

Sandinista! (1980) was also the fourth album released by The Clash. It featured the single Police on my Back.

La Azul y Blanco played its first official game against El Salvador, losing 9-0 in 1929. It has improved only somewhat since. Its current FIFA ranking, 100th, is not far off its best, 92nd, set in 2015. In 2001, Nicaragua reached its nadir, sinking to 193rd.
Since 1963, Nicaragua has only appeared three times (1963, 1967, and 2009) in the Gold Cup, known as the CONCACAF Championship prior to 1991. it's only result in 12 matches being a draw, not much is expected from the team in 2017. Its last victory in meaningful competition came in a Gold Cup qualifier, on March 28th, a 3-0 victory against Haiti.

Nicaragua plays in a traditional blue home kit and away white. Only five players from it 23 man squad play abroad. Just two compete outside Central America, in Peru and, oddly enough, Iceland.

Captain and midfielder Juan Barrera plays his club football in Guatemala. Capped 40 times, Berrera is Nicaragua's leading active scorer. His 10 goals place him one behind all-time scorer, Emilio Palacios, who retired in 2009. Defender Josue Quijano has the most caps in the current side with 45, just 4 behind David Solorzano.
Nicaragua have played 170 games all told but against just 22 opponents. Its record is 27 wins, 15 draws, and 128 losses. Notable triumphs have come against Honduras, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Its largest margin of victory was achieved twice, in 5-0 wins over Cuba and Anguilla.

This tournament holds little hope for La Azul y Blanco to make an impact. After its opening game against Martinique, it faces two top CONCACAF teams in the US and Panama. Nicaragua will be more than happy to just scrape a win from one of the three games, something it has never done in this competition. If the team can break that duck, it will have been long in coming, making the celebration all the sweeter for its fans.
Jamie Kynaston

For my sins, I'm a season ticket holder at Stoke City, I have been proud to watch them for over 20 years. I follow most of the UK leagues and the major European ones too, and I've been told that I talk way too much about football.

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