Nicaragua is the least densely populated country in Central America but has the 3rd most populous country with 5.8 Million people. Nicaragua is the poorest Central American country after the war between the US-backed Contra and the elected government of the Sandinistas. Much of the country's infrastructure was damaged or destroyed in the 1980 battles between these two groups. This is the main reason why the national economy and the national soccer program have suffered so much. Nicaragua however just made history this year in the UNCAF Nations Cup 2009. The played are surprisingly good tournament. Let’s take a quick look at Nicaragua’s past tournaments and the progress they have shown.
Group play went according to form. Honduras and Costa Rica both won their groups as expected. The little surprise was Nicaragua. They only lost 1 game to the host. The tied both Belize and El Salvador. This is significant since Nicaragua was the worst UNCAF team by far. In 2001 Nations Cup they lost 6-0 to Panama and 10-2 to Honduras. They were just a hideous team 10 years ago. These scores reflected the low status Nicaragua had in soccer. In 2003 they went 1 win and 4 loses with a -10 goal differential. The 2005 tournament was no better they went 1-2 with a -7 goal differential. 2007 is where they started to show some improvement. They still went 1-2 however their goal differential was 0 in group play. This placed them in the final playoff spot for the Gold Cup. Nicaragua was now playing with the big boys for something considerable. They were slaughtered 9-1 by a talented Honduras team. They got a real taste of the high stakes of soccer in this match. However this was a learning tool for Nicaragua. Nicaragua played the same Honduras team in 2009 and only lost 4-1. I say only since the gmae was in Honduras not a neutral site. Nicaragua did not lose another game after their opening loss. They stunned El Salvador 1-1 and again tied a feisty Belize team 1-1. This placed them again into the all important playoff game for the last Gold Cup slot. This time they did not fall apart. They went on to win one of their most significant games ever. It was a 2-0 over regional power Guatemala.