WORLD CUP: Team profile – ecuador (group A)

Ecuador were unquestionably the revelation of the South American qualifiers for the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan. For a side with a modest football pedigree, their second-placed finish 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 World Cup.

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.

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. 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 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. At the start of the last South American qualifiers, Ecuador were in 71st position in the World Ranking. After securing their ticket to Germany, they were well in to the 30s, which showed just how far they had progressed.

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 achi-evemets of four years ago”.