WC participations 1 (2002)
WC honours None
Continental Titles None
Ecuador continue on upward curve
Ecuador were unquestionably the revelation of the South American qualifiers for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™. For a side with a modest football pedigree, their second-placed finish (a point ahead of Brazil) in a fiercely competitive region was a remarkable achievement. Four years on, Luis Suarez\'s team have done it again, qualifying for their second successive FIFA World Cup™ hot on the heels of Argentina and the \'Samba Stars\'.
Once more, Ecuador sealed their place in the finals with a game to spare, on this occasion with a home draw against Uruguay. However, all did not go to plan on the road to Germany. In July 2004, after seven qualifying games and a disastrous showing at the Copa America in Peru, Hernan Dario Gomez stepped down as national team coach. Having lost the man who had taken them to their first FIFA World Cup, Ecuador turned to another Colombian, Suarez, to continue the path laid down by his predecessor.
Under Suarez, Ecuador secured qualification thanks in the main to an enviable home record, ending the campaign unbeaten in Quito with a staggering 23 points. This total is all the more important if you consider their overall tally of 28 points, three fewer than last time around. Without their fanatical home support and the formidable advantage of playing at high altitude, Ecuador were unable to reproduce the same kind of form on their travels. Their overall qualifying record was eight wins, four draws and six defeats, with 23 goals for and 19 against.
Ecuador\'s one previous appearance at the FIFA World Cup™ came four years ago in Korea/Japan. The odds were stacked against them from the outset, and they were widely tipped to be among the first sides booking their flight home. Despite not quite having the quality to make it through to the knockout stages, Ecuador signed off on a high with Edison Mendez\'s goal sealing a 1-0 win over Croatia, the third-placed team at France 98.
At the start of the last South American qualifiers, Ecuador were in 71st position in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. After securing their ticket to Germany, they were well in to the 30s, which showed just how far they had progressed. Curiously, Ecuador endured a shaky start to their qualifying campaign for Korea/Japan, and history was to repeat itself this time around. The boys from Quito steadied the ship and got the wins they needed, however, including one against South American superpowers Brazil.
Following in the footsteps of his predecessor and compatriot Gomez, Suarez is the man charged with achieving success on German soil. From the same Colombian school of coaching that produced both Gomez and Francisco Maturana, the convivial Suarez managed to pull his side through a difficult spell using a successful blend of youth and experience. Although Suarez currently enjoys hero status in Ecuador, he refuses to rest on his laurels, continually exhorting his side to 'strive to improve on the achievements of four years ago'.
Suarez is fortunate to be able to call on a balanced and tactically aware set of players, including outstanding young performers like Christian Lara, Luis Valencia and Franklin Salas, who surely have a bright future on the European stage. Ecuador\'s hopes of success in next summer\'s showpiece rest on these young stars as well as the wise old heads of Ulises de La Cruz, Ivan Hurtado, Mendez and Agustin Delgado. With many of the older generation desperate to go out on a high and the young guns hungry to prove their worth at international level, Ecuador will be looking to use the experience of four years ago to take the next step at Germany 2006. On the balance of evidence, they just might do it.
Ecuador\'s international football history was a blank page until 2002. They participated in the FIFA World Cup finals for the first time in Korea and Japan, qualifying for the tournament before Brazil.
They opened with two defeats to Italy and Mexico, before recording their first ever victory in a FIFA World Cup against Croatia thanks to an Edison Mendez goal, thus proving that they were capable of success.
away from the high altitudes of their capital Quito. The newcomers, who did not play any international outside South America until 1970, could return home with their heads held high.