Today, with Ecuador we continue, in reverse alphabetical order, to provide the profiles of the 32 teams which qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
La Tricolor (the tricolors) are participating in their fourth World Cup ever. They departed the cup at the Group Stage in 2002 and 2014 and made the Round of 16 in 2006. In their last 16 games, though, Ecuador have produced 6-wins, 2-loses, and 8-draws (having last lost a game in March and being undefeated in six), including draws with Brazil and Argentina. Never a South American powerhouse—they have never won the Copa America—Ecuador had a strong CONMEBOL qualifying run punching their ticket to Qatar ahead of Peru, Colombia, and Chile.
Placed in Group A with the Netherlands, Senegal, and hosts Qatar, the Ecuadoreans (ranked 44th in the world by FIFA) believe they can advance at the expense of one of the latter two opponents. Although they have not been great scorers, in those last 5 friendlies since qualifying, La Tri have not conceded a goal. That said, although Qatar may be at their level the South Americans will be playing the cup’s opening match against the hosts which is always a daunting challenge. On paper, the Dutch and Senegalese are better teams and though a draw with either or both is not out of the question progression will be a difficult task. Ecuador’s home kit is a yellow shirt with dark blue shorts and socks and their away kit is a less dark blue shirt with grey shorts and white socks. Sometimes, they use a third kit which is a white shirt with blue shorts and white socks.
Ecuador is a 109,000 square mile country in northwestern South America with a humid subtropical climate throughout the land with the exception of the higher altitudes and comprised of four distinct zones: a 1,452-mile coastline of fertile banana producing plantations and abundant fisheries; the heavily populated highlands of the Andes; the Amazonia region with large jungle tracts of land set aside for the Amazon Amerindians to continue living in their traditional manners; and the Galapagos Island, of Charles Darwin fame, which lie 627 miles west of the mainland.
Ecuador was inhabited about 16,500 years ago and the many tribes which established a life there were eventually subsumed into the Inca Empire which the Spanish conquered. The nation is a unitary presidential republic that became independent from Spain in 1822, with its current constitution dating to 2008. The country has a population of 17.3M who is 72% Mestizo (White and Indigenous), 87% Christian, speak Spanish (93%) and Quechua (4%), has a GDP of $202B, and an HDI score of 0.740 (high). Ecuador’s Pasillo music derived from Colombia and its cuisine descendant from the Inca are distinctive facets of their culture.
Squad (which may change before the cup given injuries, form, and coaching choices—teams mentioned are subject to change given transfers): Goalkeepers— Hernan Galindez (Aucas), Moises Ramirez (Independiente del Valle), GK: Alexander Dominguez (LDU Quito), and Gonzalo Valle (Guayaquil City); Defenders— Pervis Estupinan (Brighton), Angelo Preciado (Genk), Piero Hincapie (Bayer Leverkusen), Xavier Arreaga (Seattle Sounders), Diego Palacios (Los Angeles), Byron Castillo (Leon), Fernando Leon (Atletico San Luis), Jackson Porozo (Troyes), and William Pacho (Antwerp); Midfielders—Carlos Gruezo (Augsburg), Angel Mena (Leon), Jhegson Mendez (Los Angeles FC), Gonzalo Plata (Real Valladolid), Romario Ibarra (Pachuca), Moises Caicedo (Brighton), Alan Franco (Talleres), Jose Cifuentes (Los Angeles), Jeremy Sarmiento (Brighton), Nilson Angulo (Anderlecht), Patrickson Delgado (Jong Ajax), and Anthony Valencia (Antwerp); Strikers—Enner Valencia (Fenerbahce), Michael Estrada (Cruz Azul), and Djorkaeff Reasco (Newell’s Old Boys).
Path to Qatar
Ecuador qualified directly to Qatar in the fourth CONMEBOL slot. They accumulated 26 points off of a 7-5-6 record with a +8-goal differential. Perhaps their best outing was their 6-1 stomping of Colombia in Quito.
Ecuador’s Argentine coach, Gustavo Alfaro, had been using a 4-3-3 and counting on a stingy defense and multiple keeper options to maintain opponents at bay. Alfaro has then utilized winger Pervis Estupinan rushing forward from left back to hook up with top striker Enner Valencia on the left while using a mix of Gonzalo Plata or Angel Mena on the right attacking wing to hook up with center forward Michael Estrada. These have been the team’s major weapons. The solidity of the defense will be the foundation of any progress the team makes and their speedy flank game will determine if they score.
Aside from the ones mentioned, Angelo Preciado and Felix Torres in defense and rising midfield star Jeremy Sarmiento are the ones to watch. The interesting thing about the Ecuadorean squad is the number of youngsters the coach has felt confident in calling up for national duty which include thirteen players aged 23 years or younger.
Group and Tourney Prospects
El Tri are cognizant of two things—first that their group is manageable, with a win and a draw possibly enough to move on to the next round, and second, that if they make it through it will probably be in second place. Once they reach the Round of 16, though, almost any team they meet will be on a much higher plane, and barring a really unexpected upset that should be the depth of their progression.
Photo: Ecuador’s Enner Valencia – Shutterstock ID: 198805505, by AGIF