On Tuesday, an own-goal in stoppage time meant a 2-2 draw for the Canadians in their opener versus Guadeloupe, while Los Chapines ended a six-match winless run in the group stage of this competition by handing Cuba a 1-0 loss.
Earlier this week, a determined Guatemalan side looked disciplined at the back and dangerous in possession, winning a group fixture at the Gold Cup for the first time since 2011.
La Bicolor came as advertised in their opener, cutting off the Cubans’ time and space on the ball while doing enough to earn three points, the second shutout in their previous three encounters in all competitions.
Scoring a goal or fewer in five successive international fixtures is far from an earth-shattering statistic, but when you can limit your opponent to just a single effort on target like Los Mayas were able to do on Tuesday, netting once is often enough.
That one goal in their previous encounter already equalled their entire output from the 2021 group stage at this competition, while they have only scored against Canada in one prior meeting this century.
If they can capture three points against the Canadians this week, Luis Fernando Tena’s men would not only be in the quarter-finals, but it would also be the first time this team will have ever won two matches in a single Gold Cup.
Guatemala conceded six goals in three group fixtures at this tournament two years ago, as many as they have given up in eight matches played so far this year.
They have never beaten a North American side in this competition, though Los Chapines managed to keep Mexico off the scoresheet in a friendly last year, playing to a 0-0 draw.
Preview: Guatemala vs. Canada – prediction, team news, lineups
It was not the start John Herdman was hoping for as his Canucks dropped points on home soil for the first time since their opening World Cup qualifying fixture in the Octagon, when they settled for a 1-1 result against Honduras.
Some of the usual suspects that we are used to seeing wear the white and red of Canada are absent at this tournament, including Alphonso Davies, Stephen Eustaquio and Jonathan David, and there was often a lack of cohesion in their opener with many new faces playing together for the first time.
Their draw on Tuesday was the first time in nearly four years that they had failed to hang onto a second-half advantage, the previous time being at the 2019 Gold Cup when they were beaten 3-2 by Haiti in the quarter-finals.
Even without numerous superstars, Les Rouges have massive expectations on their shoulders at this tournament, and, if they lose this encounter, those expectations may not be met as a defeat combined with a win by Guadeloupe versus Cuba would put them three points back of second with one match remaining.
A defeat on Saturday would also be a less-than-ideal way for these players to celebrate their nation’s 156th birthday, though this team have not lost their second match in a Gold Cup group stage since falling 2-1 versus Mexico in 2019.
Canada should be feeling good about their chances versus the Central Americans, having won four successive encounters against La Bicolor, outscoring them 8-0 over that stretch, with their last defeat to Guatemala coming in August 2004 (2-0).
Whether it is nerves or a lack of concentration, the Canucks have started slowly in most of their recent group fixtures in this competition, conceding the opening goal in three of their last four outings.
Guatemala CONCACAF Gold Cup form:
Guatemala form (all competitions):
Canada CONCACAF Gold Cup form:
Canada form (all competitions):
We say: Guatemala 0-1 Canada
If that opening fixture does not wake up this Canadian squad, then nothing will, and we believe they will have the bulk of the possession, while their youth could be a handful for the Guatemalans.
Expect Los Chapines to sit back without much attacking intention, which might work for a while, but this Canadian team have a lot of speed and attacking depth to call upon, and we believe that will ultimately make the difference.