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By Vijay Setur
HARRISON, New Jersey – Carlos Ruiz’s second-half goal put Guatemala into the Gold Cup quarterfinals as it dominated Grenada 4-0 on Monday in both teams’ final Group B match.
Needing a three-goal win to assure itself of advancing, Guatemala scored twice in the first 22 minutes and then provisionally put itself into the knockout round when Ruiz knocked in a rebound in the 54th.
Jose Del Aguila and Marco Pappa started the rout, and Carlos Gallardo added the insurance in the 59th.
The win gave Guatemala four points and a plus-2 goal difference, enough to ensure it would edge out El Salvador for at least one of two berths guaranteed to third-place finishers. The result also put “Los Chapines” past the group stage for only the third time in nine Gold Cup appearances.
After getting its first Gold Cup goal in its history against Honduras – albeit in a 7-1 loss, Grenada returned home for a second time without a victory and outscored 15-1.
Guatemala, which was held goalless in its first two games, capitalized on a largely partisan crowd at Red Bull Arena and dominated possession from the outset. Grenada allowed the Guatemalans considerable space, enabling “Los Chapines” to shoot almost uncontested at goalkeeper Shemel Louison.
Del Aguila was the first to take advantage, finishing a series of quick passes in the offensive zone with a a shot from 20 meters that caromed off the inside of the right post and past Louison.
Pappa doubled the lead in the 22nd minute when, again unchallenged approaching the area, his drive from 25 meters was tipped by Louison, but wasn’t enough to keep the hard-struck ball out of the goal.
Ruiz, who has been criticized in media reports for his inability to score, saved his first goal for an important moment. Jairo Arreola took a pass from Pappa and sent a shot off the crossbar that rebounded to Ruiz, who volleyed it in the 54th minute for a 3-0 lead.
Five minutes later, Gallardo completed the scoring when he took a feed from Pappa in the penalty and fired a low shot by Louison.
Grenada captain Anthony Modeste announced his retirement from international soccer earlier in the day, however, the news couldn’t inspire the Spice Boys, who suffered a third straight lopsided loss.
Their lone bright spot again was Louison, who made several difficult saves to prevent the score from worsening.
Grenada’s best chance came in the 87th minute when substitute Marcus Julien’s strike hit the post.
The Caribbean islanders have lost all six of their Gold Cup matches by a combined score of 25-1 and have conceded four or more goals in five of the games.
Guatemala will now await the outcome of Tuesday’s Group C matches to learn its quarterfinal opponent.