JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Who better than Carlos “El Pescadito” Ruiz would know what it means to face Mexico in meaningful matches?
Throughout his international career - which now spans 13 years - Ruiz has faced El Tri on countless occasions, giving him first-hand knowledge of Mexico’s strengths and weaknesses.
“Mexico is the favorite,” Ruiz said on Wednesday ahead of Saturday’s Gold Cup quarterfinal at New Meadowlands Stadium (8 pm ET, Univisión). “We’re giving them respect, but we’re not afraid. We’re confident and the players — to achieve the feat, to change the course of the match — we know that on paper we’re not the favorites, but anything can happen in 90 minutes.”
As the leader and veteran presence on the Guatemalan national team, Ruiz, who spent some time with Mexican side Puebla, is looked upon as a source of vital information. The striker, however, prefers that it be his coach, Ever Hugo Almeida, who tells the boys how to approach the match against Mexico.
“I can talk about my experience in Mexico, but the national team is a compound of the best players I faced in Mexico,” Ruiz said. “To tell [my teammates] how to play them is difficult. It’s best to see what Mexico has done thus far in their group stage games, where they convincingly beat their foes.
“I see this Mexico team as a lot quicker, there are explosive players on the flanks, and they’ve finally found a target forward in Javier Hernández,” added Ruiz. “It’s going to be a different squad and we’re going to try to study them and try to play an intelligent match.”
Part of that intelligent approach lies not in individual skills, but rather as a team effort.
“It’s hard to say that Guatemala, through individual efforts, will go far,” said Ruiz. “I’d rather say that through a collective effort and as a team, we can achieve great things.
“There are a lot of young players on this team, it’s a new process, there are many new faces and it’s up to some of us that have had the chance to play Mexico in Gold Cups and [World Cup] qualifiers to guide them,” he added. “We hope to play a great game.”
With the objective of reaching the second round complete, Guatemala now fix their gaze on a semifinals appearance. Los Chapines could very well get there, but only if they manage to make mighty Mexico take a tumble.
“We’ve reached the quarterfinals in past Gold Cups and the short-term objective was to reach the quarters,” Ruiz said, “but now the new objective is to reach the semifinals.”