Central America's All-Time Greatest World Cup XI

Karla Villegas GamaFeatured ColumnistJune 8, 2014

Central America's All-Time Greatest World Cup XI

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    WALTER ASTRADA/Associated Press

    The Central American squads have not appeared in as many World Cups as the Europeans, but they have certainly given football some stellar players.

    Take for instance Jorge Alberto Gonzalez, aka El Magico, from El Salvador, or Gilberto Yearwood from Honduras.

    Some of these footballers even left their motherland for Europe, where they performed in the first division of the most competitive leagues in the world.

    Their experience abroad and proven talent were key in helping their national teams reach the biggest and most important football fiesta.

    Let's take a look at the most successful Central Americans who have played at least one World Cup.

Luis Gabelo Conejo (GK)

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    Country: Costa Rica

    World Cup: Italy 1990

     

    Luis Gabelo Conejo proved to be a world-class goalkeeper 24 years ago.

    By that time, he was 30 years old and playing for Costa Rican club AD Ramonense, where he was an undisputed starter.

    His quick reflexes and diving skills were flawless. At the 1990 World Cup, he denied goals to Brazil, Scotland and Sweden in the group stage; his effort was instrumental in helping his side reach the knockout stage.

    Unfortunately, he couldn't play in the round of 16 due to an injury and Los Ticos left Italy after four games.

    However, his performance earned him recognition all over the world, and he quickly joined Spanish club Albacete. After a splendid season in the second division, the team was promoted to La Liga.

Emilio Izaguirre (LB)

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    Country: Honduras

    World Cup: South Africa 2010

     

    Emilio Izaguirre spent his first seven years as a professional footballer with Honduran club Motagua, where he won the 2007 league title.

    His performance in the CONCACAF Champions League and the World Cup secured him a spot with the Scottish side Celtic, where he has played 151 games and scored once.

    Izaguirre is a tough defender, who can easily join the attack thanks to his speed and fine touch.

    He has appeared 67 times with La H.

Jaime Rodriguez (CB)

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    Country: El Salvador

    World Cup: Spain 1982

     

    Jaime Rodriguez played for clubs from El Salvador, Germany, Mexico, Finland and Japan. He became a legend in his country between the '70s and '80s.

    He appeared in the only World Cup that El Salvador has played, showing his talent and boldness. La Chelona was a passionate and devoted defender who played in the World Cup with a broken ankle, as he told in an interview for FIFA's Spanish website.

    Rodriguez won the CONCACAF Champions League with FAS and the Salvadoran league title with Alianza.

Gilberto Yearwood (CB)

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    Vincent Thian/Associated Press

    Country: Honduras

    World Cup: Spain 1982

     

    Gilberto Yearwood was a tough and fierce centre-back, who could also play as a libero. El Vikingo left his country in 1977 as he signed with Spanish side Elche, after a fantastic performance at that year's U20 World Cup.

    In Europe, he became a first-class defender who polished his skills, like his powerful long-distance shot.

    He spent nine years in Spain playing for Elche, Real Valladolid, Tenerife and Celta de Vigo. He eventually returned to Honduras, where he ended his career with Olimpia.

    He was appointed Honduras manager in 2001 but left the job the next year. In 2008, he coached the U23 squad in the Beijing Olympics.

Harold Wallace (RB)

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Country: Costa Rica

    World Cup: Korea-Japan 2002 and Germany 2006

     

    Harold Wallace is one of Costa Rica's most capped players, with a total of 101 appearances.

    Wallace started playing in the youth system of Saprissa and finally debuted with the senior squad when he was 18 years old.

    He established himself as one of the toughest defenders of CONCACAF due to his performance with Los Ticos.

    Wallace left Costa Rica in 1994 and joined Mexican club Zacatepec. However, he went back after one season.

    Between the early and mid-2000s, he reached his peak and took over the starting position of the national team and the clubs where he played in that period (Alajuelense and San Luis).

    He could play as a defensive midfielder, too.

Roger Espinoza (LW)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Country: Honduras

    World Cup: South Africa 2010

     

    The Wigan Athletic footballer received his first call-up for the Honduras senior team in 2009 and has been a thriving force every since.

    Roger Espinoza played in the 2009 UNCAF Nations Cup, where he scored once. The following year, at age 24, he made his World Cup debut with La H in South Africa, where he started the first two games.

    In 2012, Espinoza joined his country's U23 squad for the Summer Olympics. In the tournament, he showed that he could offer a lot when the defense needed it.

    His ball possession and fine touch set him as the perfect link between the attacking zone and the back line.

Wilson Palacios (CM)

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    Country: Honduras

    World Cup: South Africa 2010

     

    Wilson Palacios is one of the most successful Hondurans playing overseas. He joined Birmingham City in 2007, where he quickly proved to be a trustworthy midfielder.

    Palacios has also played for Premier League clubs Wigan Athletic, Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City.

    Some of his most valuable assets include tackling, ball recovery and possession. He knows when to pass the ball to the player with the most chances of making an impact in the score.

    With the national team he has appeared 94 times, since his first call-up in 2003.

Christian Bolanos (RW)

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    Country: Costa Rica

    World Cup: Germany 2006

     

    Christian Bolanos has established himself as an undisputed starter for Costa Rica thanks to his creativity and strength through the right flank.

    In the 2006 World Cup, he only played once as a starter, in the last match, and he had a more defensive role.

    Little by little Bolanos matured into a more offensive footballer who nowadays is one of the most unbalancing players in CONCACAF due to his speed and dribbling skills.

    During the 2014 World Cup qualifying process, he was instrumental in helping his team secure the second place of the Hexagonal.

Walter Centeno (AM)

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Country: Costa Rica

    World Cup: Korea-Japan 2002 and Germany 2006

     

    Walter Centeno is one of the most beloved Costa Rican footballers. He played as an attacking midfielder, from where he surprised the defenders with his speed and powerful shots.

    Centeno is the player who has represented the national team the most times, with a total of 137. He is also the fifth-most prolific scorer, with 24 goals to his name.

    He started his career with Saprissa but eventually joined Greek club AEK Athens, where he spent one season before going back to his motherland.

    His leadership earned him the Costa Rica's captain armband in 2010.

Paulo Wanchope (FW)

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    LIONEL CIRONNEAU/Associated Press

    Country: Costa Rica

    World Cup: Korea-Japan 2002 and Germany 2006

     

    He wore Costa Rica's jersey for 12 years, during which he scored 45 goals in 73 games, becoming the second all-time scorer of Los Ticos.

    Paulo Wanchope is the only Costa Rican who has scored twice in a single World Cup game. In 2006, he defeated Jens Lehmann in the opening match. Despite his efforts, Costa Rica couldn't advance to the knockout stage.

    Wanchope's stride was key when he had to leave the rivals behind, plus his speed and accuracy inside the box turned him into one of the most feared forwards.

    During his club career, he played in Argentina, Costa Rica, England, Japan, Qatar, Spain and the United States.

Jorge Gonzalez (FW)

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    Country: El Salvador

    World Cup: Spain 1982

     

    Jorge Gonzalez is by far the best Salvadoran footballer in history. Simply known as Magico (magic), he represented El Salvador in the last World Cup the country attended.

    Gonzalez spent nine years in Spain, playing for Cadiz and Real Valladolid. In his homeland, he was part of Antel and FAS; with the latter he won four Primera Division titles and a CONCACAF Champions league.

    Magico was a tireless forward who fought every ball and took his chances on a regular basis. He was able to shoot with both legs.

    His speed, fine touch, accuracy and dribbling skills helped him catch the media attention during the 1982 World Cup, although El Salvador finished last in the group stage.

    During his time with Cadiz, he proved his knack for goalscoring, as he netted 58 times in 194 appearances.

     

    All advances statistics provided by ESPNFC.com, unless otherwise noted.