Kiruna FF: Central American Recruitment vs 2026 World Cup

Hello, and welcome back! In the previous post, I provided an overview of our debut season in Allsvenskan and delved deeper into our current club standing.

This post will be about how effective my recruitment efforts have been in Central America and their impact on the respective nations’ success. Let’s jump right in!

Central American Recruitment

Our scouts have focused on the Central American nations, Mexico, the USA, and Canada. They are searching for U19 players with at least 3-star potential, and I am also manually scouting all levels of the national teams and veteran players with a significant reputation.

In Belize, Shane McCaulay signed from the Mexican lower league team, Tepic, for £7.5k, and he has made seven appearances for the Belize national team.

We’ve had better luck when scouting for Costa Ricans. Diego Campos, who joined us from Degerfors IF for £70k, has been on our radar since the beginning of the save and has been performing well, scoring one goal and providing 15 assists in 53 appearances. Rafael Mora, who joined Carmelita for £39.5k during the winter, has already made four appearances this season and is expected to debut soon. Mauricio Miranda, Harold Maffio, and Brandon Solís have all made their U21 debuts. All five players have yet to be called up to the national team.

In El Salvador, we currently have three players at the club, including national team star Enrico Dueñas, who joined Cartagena in 2024 as a free agent. Franco Fernández has broken through this season, starting one match and making ten more appearances as a substitute. At the same time, Diego Águila was released by DC United and has recently completed his senior debut.

Guatemala’s Victor Ochoa joined the club in 2024 as an unattached player and spent his first season on loan at Sandvikens IF, making 27 appearances, scoring once, and providing one assist. He broke through last season, scoring once in 24 appearances in 2025, and has been a squad player this season. Ochoa recently undeclared from Guatemala and is hoping to be called up by Mexico.

Mario Fonseca, who joined the club for free from MLS Next side Strikers FC Irvine in 2024, made several appearances in his first season. Still, he was sent out on loan to Halmstads SK, scoring 16 goals and providing six assists in 27 appearances. Our second Honduran import, Pedro Green, joined from Honduran side Marathon earlier this season for £90k and has now made his senior international debut.

The first Central American player signed was Nicaraguan international striker Ariagner Smith, after being released from Latvian club Spartaks in 2023. Smith helped us with back-to-back promotions from Ettan Norra to Superettan to Allsvenskan, scoring 16 goals in 34 appearances for the club before being loaned out for the last two seasons. Jacob Montes joined us in 2024 from Brazilian side Botofogo for £12k and has been a solid player, scoring two goals and delivering eight assists in 44 appearances with a 7.05 average rating. Matias Belli Moldskred joined us last season for free from Norwegian side Sandness Ulf and made 18 appearances, scoring four and assisting four.

Finally, Marcos Ortega is the only Panamanian player at the club, joining us this season from CD Universitario for £12.5k after making 27 senior appearances for the Panamanian side.

Overall, our recruitment efforts in the Central American nations, Mexico, the USA, and Canada have been quite fruitful, and we’ve managed to sign several high-potential players. I want to add more players in the following transfer windows to continue developing our Central American gems.

2026 World Cup

CONCACAF Qualifiers:

The road to qualifying for the World Cup differed from previous years. The CONCACAF region was split into three qualifying groups of four teams each. With Canada, Mexico, and the USA already qualified, the remaining Central American teams had a fantastic opportunity to make it to the World Cup.

Group A saw Honduras and Guatemala go up against Caribbean powerhouse Jamaica. The Catrachos edged out Jamaica on goal difference to clinch the top spot, while Jamaica settled for the playoffs. The story was similar in Group B, where Nicaragua secured their first-ever World Cup qualification by topping the group.

In Group C, Suriname caused a major upset by winning all six matches against Panama, Trinidad & Tobago, and Haiti, booking their pot in the World Cup. Unfortunately, Costa Rica’s journey ended as they lost to Bolivia, who went on to beat Jamaica in the playoffs and qualify for their first World Cup.

It was a proud but bittersweet moment in the save as we were able to send five Central American players to the World Cup, but sadly no Swedish players were called up.

World Cup Finals:

The World Cup was expanded to 48 teams, and the teams were split into 16 groups of three. The top two teams from each group would qualify for the knockout stages, leaving no room for error.

Honduras found themselves in Group F, along with football giants Argentina and Ukraine. Their first match against Argentina was tough, but the Catrachos put up a fantastic effort, even though Argentina dominated possession by 76%. Honduras went tip-for-toe with the Argentinians, registering eight shots on goal compared to Argentina’s 7. However, they couldn’t find the back of the net, and Argentina won the match 1-0.

Honduras faced Ukraine in their second match, but the Ukrainian team was in better shape, winning (3-0). They had 12 shots on goal from 24 attempts, while Honduras managed only three shots on goal from 5 attempts. Despite their best efforts, the Catrachos finished at the bottom of the group without scoring a single goal.

On the other hand, Nicaragua was drawn into Group K, with Croatia and Japan as their opponents. Croatia thrashed them in their first match, losing (5-1). Ariagner Smith scored Nicaragua’s first-ever World Cup goal, but it was not enough to save the team from defeat. The scoreline against Japan was better, with Nicaragua losing (1-0). However, Japan dominated them, completing 929 out of 989 passes with 77% possession. Nicaragua failed to register a shot on goal in the match, which ended their World Cup dreams.

Fast forwarding to the Quarter-Finals, we saw Spain take on Brazil in a highly anticipated match. Unfortunately, Brazil proved too strong for Spain, winning (2-0). Meanwhile, England secured a comfortable (2-0) victory over Ireland, setting up a Semi-Final clash with Brazil. In the other Quarter-Final match, Sweden faced off against Switzerland but ultimately lost (1-3). Italy, on the other hand, dominated Belgium, winning (4-1).

In the Semi-Finals, Brazil continued their winning streak, defeating England (1-0) to secure their spot in the Final. In the other match, Italy faced off against Switzerland, with the Azzurri emerging victorious with a narrow (1-0) win. With both teams set to meet in the Final, fans eagerly anticipated a thrilling match.

Ultimately, Italy emerged victorious, defeating Brazil (3-2) in what I imagine was a thrilling match. Gianluca Scamacca put in a fantastic performance, scoring a first-half hat-trick. The Italian team proved they had what it took to redeem themselves for their absence in the 2022 World Cup.

Looking ahead to the 2030 World Cup, one thing is certain – the competition will be tough. With Canada, Mexico, and the United States back in the mix, the Central American nations must work even harder to secure their spot.

World Rankings

I wanted to know how much each Central American nation’s FIFA ranking has changed from the beginning of the save, in 2022, to the end of the 2026 Season.

Even though we saw a slight improvement in their ranking, Belize remains one of the lowest-ranked teams in the region. In 2022, they were ranked 174th, and by 2026, they had moved up six spots to 168th. Once considered a powerhouse in the region, Costa Rica has seen a significant drop in their ranking. In 2022, they were ranked 34th, but by 2026, they had fallen to 63rd. The steep decline in their ranking could be attributed to missing the World Cup.

El Salvador has also dropped in their ranking. In 2022, they were ranked 71st; by 2026, they had slipped seven spots to 78th. Guatemala, on the other hand, has improved in their ranking. In 2022, they were ranked 115th, and by 2026, they had moved up eight spots to 107th. Despite their consistent performances in the last few years, Honduras has not seen much change in their ranking. In 2022, they were ranked 80th; by 2026, they ranked 81st, just one spot lower.

Nicaragua, one of the lowest-ranked teams, has seen a notable improvement in their ranking. In 2022, they were ranked 138th, and by 2026, they had moved up 14 spots to 124th. Their performances in recent years have been better than expected, and qualifying for the World Cup has helped them immensely. Lastly, Panama has slightly declined their ranking. In 2022, they were ranked 60th; by 2026, they had fallen five spots to 65th.

Overall, I am still determining how much my recruitment policies have helped the region. Aside from Nicaragua and Honduras’ surprise World Cup qualifications, I have yet to have a hand in how other teams have improved. Guatemala, for example, has done quite well without Kiruna players on the national team. Costa Rica, on the other hand, has not been impressive in the last Gold Cup or the World Cup qualifiers. I’ve yet to have my players debut for the national team, so I plan to develop the few players at the club to improve their standing.

This was a different post from me, and I hope y’all enjoy it. In the next post, I’ll jump in quickly to see how we fared in the 2026 Season.

As always, feel free to reach out on Twitter, and if you want to stay up to date with the save, come say hi on Slack.



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