Ecuador

Population: 13,400,000
Area: 283,560 km²
Capital: Quito
Language: Spanish

 
THE ROAD TO GERMANY
Ecuador finished third behind Brazil and Argentina in the CONMEBOL league.
Click here for details

 
MATCHES IN 2006
Jan 25 Ecuador v Honduras 1-0
Mar 01 Netherlands v Ecuador 1-0
Mar 30 Japan v Ecuador 1-0
May 24 Ecuador v Colombia 1-1
May 28 FYR Macedonia v Ecuador 2-1

 
WORLD CUP HISTORY
Participations: (1) 2002
Best placing: 1st round 2002
Topscorer: Agustin Delgado and Edison Mendez, 1 goal

 
FIRST ROUND MATCHES
Jun 09 - ECU v POL  in Gelsenkirchen
Jun 15 - ECU v CRC  in Hamburg
Jun 20 - ECU v GER  in Berlin

 
PWC STAFF VERDICT
- Ecuador in Group A -
Jan Alsos: 3rd place
Pierre Boisrond: 2nd place
Ruud Doevendans: 2nd place
Mike Gibbons: 2nd place
Peter Goldstein: 4th place
Paul Marcuccitti: 4th place
Felipe Santos: 3rd place
PREDICTION: First round exit



OUTSIDERS AGAIN


by Peter Goldstein


    Ecuador are one of the great stories in South American football--only no one seems to be noticing. After years of abject minnowhood, they burst forth to qualify for the World Cup in 2002, and performed respectably: loss to Italy, loss to Mexico after taking the lead, win over Croatia. Four years later they’ve qualified again, ahead of more storied sides like Chile and Peru, and more fancied sides like Colombia and Uruguay. They finished above Paraguay for the second straight cycle, too. By all standards Ecuador is a strong new face on the South American scene. So why isn’t the world enthralled?

    I guess no one believes in South American football anymore. It’s been a very long time since anyone other than Brazil and Argentina made an impact at the World Cup. The last team to make the final eight was Peru, all the way back in 1978. From that perspective, Ecuador looks like just another patsy, someone for European teams like Germany and Poland to sweep aside. They have the additional stigma of being a high-altitude team, helpless away from Quito. But the Andes have been there for many thousands of years, and it didn’t seem to help Ecuador one bit until recently. Beating both Brazil and Argentina in the qualifiers is impressive no matter where you do it. South America may not be as deep as in the past, but this is a team with a bit of quality. They’re not there just to make up the numbers.

    Let’s start with the centerbacks in the 4-4-2. The great veteran of the side is captain Ivan Hurtado (Al Arabi), 31, with over 125 caps. He’s a stylish defender, good at reading and positioning, an excellent tackler, and a natural leader. At the moment he’s troubled with a knee injury, but the prognosis is good. His weak point is the air game, which is where his partner, Giovanny Espinosa (LDU Quito), comes in. He’s physical, a bit awkward at times, but covers a lot of ground and is dominant in the air. The versatile Jorge Guagua (El Nacional), who as a youngster just missed out on the squad in 2002, provides useful depth.

    At right back is one of the key men on the side, Ulises de la Cruz (Aston Villa). He's fast, aggressive, good with the ball at his feet, a creative force in attack. His crosses led to both of Ecuador's goals in 2002. The only worry is his fitness; he hasn’t seen much time in the EPL this year, and might be rusty. On the left will most likely be Paul Ambrossi (LDU Quito), better in defense than attack, a solid marker with good technique. We may also see Néicer Reasco (LDU Quito, headed to São Paulo next season), who’s a natural right-footer but can play on either side. His marking is a bit suspect, but he has ball skills and plenty of pace, and is another strong attacking option.

    Ecuador sometimes have trouble scoring goals, partly because they lack a playmaker. Suarez’ system puts the attacking midfielders on the wing and the defending midfielders in the middle. On the right side is Edison Mendez (LDU Quito), a classy all-rounder: intelligent, quick, a good dribbler and precise passer. He plays defense, can cover the whole field if necessary, and often moves into the middle to drive his powerful long-distance shot. On the left is an exciting newcomer, Antonio Valencia (Huelva), only 20, who was spotted and signed by Villareal and loaned to the Spanish second division. He has pace, excellent skills and vision, and as a bonus is a strong defender. Like Mendez, he can unload from long distance. If Suarez needs a late attacking substitute, the most likely choice is Cristian Lara (El Nacional), small, clever, and a good dribbler.

    The main man in the middle of the pitch is Edwin Tenorio (Barcelona Guayaquil). He’s a destroyer, but also effective directing traffic and distributing short and long. His main problem is lack of pace. In the qualifiers the other central midfielder was Marlon Ayovi (Deportivo Quito). Four years ago he showed himself to be quick, technical, with good anticipation, but he’s 34 now, and may be a weak point. There are several alternatives, all untested at this level: Segundo Castillo (El Nacional) is the quickest and most like Ayovi in style; David Quiroz (El Nacional) is the best passer and most likely to help the attack; Patricio Urrutia (LDU Quito) is the strongest and most like a traditional anchor.

    Up front there’s one sure thing and one large question mark. The sure thing is centerforward Agustín Delgado (LDU Quito), Ecuador’s all-time leading scorer, known as “El Tin.” He’s physically strong and outstanding in the air, which fits well with the wing attack. He can also come back or go wide to set up play, and although only an average dribbler, is a surprisingly neat and creative passer.

    But who’ll be his partner is a mystery. Mr. Excitement, youngster Franklin Salas (LDU Quito), is injured and out of the tournament. Bad boy Ivan Kaviedes (Argentinos Juniors), dynamic, creative, and thoroughly unreliable, has missed a lot of action through injury and discipline problems, and is a longshot to make the squad. Right now the most likely choice is Carlos Tenorio (Al Sadd), a big man with remarkable pace on the ball, who saw time next to Delgado in all three games in 2002. He’s been scoring in bunches for his club in Qatar. A late contender is 21-year-old Roberto Mina (FC Dallas), similar to Tenorio in style, with a little more skill and a little less drive. Felix Borja (El Nacional), known as “The Kangaroo,” has some pace and a good air game, but he’s basically a straight-ahead centerforward, and might not combine well with Delgado.

    Keeper looks solid, with the choice between Cristian Mora (LDU Quito) and Edwin Villafuerte (Deportivo Quito). Mora is young, thin as a whippet, a spectacular shot-stopper who sometimes has difficulty with crosses. Villafuerte is more experienced, physically stronger, not as remarkable on his line, but more reliable in the air. He was the regular during the qualifiers, and against traditional European-style teams like Germany and Poland, seems the more likely call.

    It’s easy to sell Ecuador short. They’re largely a home-based side, and lack that one special player who can make the difference. Certainly they won’t jolt you out of your seat. But they have talent in all areas of the field, and are a cohesive bunch who know how to play within themselves. In a middle-strength group, they expect to contend. And don't forget their World Cup experience: eight of the likely eleven starters made the trip to Korea/Japan, where the team visibly improved with each performance. If they beat Croatia in 2002, why not Poland in 2006?


 

 

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