Population: 13,100,000
Area: 283,560 km²
Capital: Quito
Language: Spanish

Ecuador was the surprise package of the Conmebol qualifiers. Their second place in front of teams like Brazil and Paraguay exceeded even the most optimistic fans' predictions.
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Participations: None
Best placing: None
Topscorer: None

Jun 03 - ECU v ITA  in Sapporo
Jun 09 - ECU v MEX  in Miyagi
Jun 13 - ECU v CRO  in Yokohama

Alex Aguinaga is a playmaker of the good old school with great skills, vision and passing ability. Most people thought he would remain one of those starplayers never to appear in a World Cup, but at 34 his chance has finally come to sparkle on the greatest stage.

WCA VERDICT: First round exit
Ecuador make their World Cup debut and that might affect their performance in this tournament. They impressed in the qualifiers and can surprise again here, but we think Croatia will go through at their expense.


by Mike Gibbons

    After years of being a poor footballing relation to their continental rivals, Ecuador have finally made it to their first World Cup finals. No longer can they just be dismissed as a home team that can only win at altitude in Quito, or the team that could not travel (their 2-1 win in a qualifier in Venezuela in November 2000 was their first win outside of Ecuador for an incredible 35 years). Ecuador have made it to the big one, and in some style.

    By winning nine of their eighteen qualifiers, Ecuador finished second only to Argentina in the mammoth slog that is South American qualifying section. This may owe a lot to the fall from grace of Chile, Colombia and most notably Brazil, though nevertheless it is still a fine achievement. World Cup fever is alive and well in Ecuador, and current coach Hernan Dario Gomez is desperately trying to keep a lid on the fans’ expectations. The Colombian, who coached his own national team at the last World Cup, has had enough problems of his own in the last year. As a result of the bitter in-fighting in football in Ecuador, he was shot at last May.

    This incident however revealed one of the reasons behind Ecuador’s new found success; in the aftermath of that incident the players rallied around their coach, even sending a delegation to beg him to stay on. This shows the bond Gomez has created with his players, which in turn has flowered into a tremendous team spirit that helped them win five qualifiers in a row between October 2000 and March 2001, culminating in a 1-0 victory over Brazil, when the dream started to become a reality. For the sake of preserving team spirit, many awkward or troublesome players have been discarded along the way, including veteran goalscorer Eduardo Hurtardo. Gomez is clearly a man who has the courage of his convictions.

    Ecuador or unusual for a modern, South American national team as they draw most of their squad from home based players. They have a good blend of youth and experience, and the lack of any real superstars no doubt adds to the team spirit. The sum of the whole is much greater than that of its individual parts with this team. They play a rigid 4-4-2, usually with Cevallos of Barcelona (no, not that one) in goal. The often shaky defence (especially from crosses and set-pieces) is coordinated by veteran Ivan Hurtado, the captain of the side. Ulises de la Cruz is an attacking right back who plays for Hibernian in Scotland, and one of Ecuador’s brightest young talents, Jorge Guagua of El Nacional, can play in defence or anchor the midfield.

    Undoubtedly the best player in the team, and in the last ten years for Ecuador, is Alex Aguinaga of Necaxa in Mexico. A superb playmaker, he is now advancing in years but gets this one last chance to show what he can do at the very highest level. He is pivotal to Ecuador’s chances, and is often surrounded by three hard working midfielders to allow him to play freely. These are usually Alfonso Obregon, Edison Mendez and Edwin Tenorio, all of whom play at home in Ecuador for Delfin, Deportivo Quito and Aucas. More creative options in midfield include Cleber Chala who plays in the Premiership with Southampton, or the young and skillful Walter Ayovi of Emelec.

    Ecuador have a definite front two, and little competition for either. Agustin Delgado, a hero in qualifying with nine goals, also plays at Southampton with Chala, and his partner Ivan Kaviedes has the highest profile as he is at Celta Vigo, although he rarely enjoys many starting chances.

    Ecuador will be on a steep learning curve in group G this summer, against the established stars of Italy in their World Cup finals debut on June 3rd, with Mexico six days later and Croatia, third placed in 1998, to finish on the 13th. Despite having ended that shocking sequence away from home they still do not travel well, and Sapporo is a long, long way from Quito. It may transpire that qualification alone was the zenith of this teams ability, and so be it. They have already surpassed the wildest dreams of many of their supporters. As the old saying goes, anything else will be a bonus.


    Ecuador has never participated in the World Cup before.




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