The expression on Walter Ayovi’s face said it all after Ecuador departed the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ earlier than they had anticipated. Having gone into their final Group E match with France in second place in the standings, any positive sense of achievement from their goalless draw was eclipsed by the disappointment of losing out to Switzerland, who turned on the style in their last game.

“It’s very difficult to analyse our performance in our final game now that we’ve been knocked out,” the 34-year-old told FIFA.com. “We’re really upset and the saddest thing is to be left with the feeling that we have to go home just as we were getting to grips with how to play at a World Cup. We knew that’s what this kind of short tournament is like but even so it’s still tough to take.”

Nevertheless, the fact that Ecuador caused title-candidates France serious problems, even after going down to ten men following Antonio Valencia’s sending off, has provided the left-back with a silver lining: “To be able to compete on an equal footing with France, who are such a strong team, shows that Ecuador have got the potential to keep improving. We’ve got players with great qualities who should believe in themselves and what they’re capable of.”

Bowing out?
Asked whether the squad would return home with any regrets, Ayovi was forthright in his response: “No, although to be honest if we’d been more forceful in our first game then maybe things would have turned out differently. But we also didn’t defend very well. At a World Cup the majority of matches are very tight and any mistakes get punished. We slipped up against Switzerland and paid for that against France.”

Ayovi could not help but smile when he was reminded that his 93rd cap for Ecuador was earned at the iconic Estadio Maracana. “Yes, that’s something I was aware of,” said the defender, who plays for Mexican side Pachuca. “I try to enjoy playing football every day and that’s why I came to the World Cup. I wanted to get to the next round just like everyone else, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we’re happy with what we’ve achieved up to this point.”

The veteran is undecided on his future in the national team, although his pauses between speaking revealed as much as his words in hinting that he could have played his last game for Ecuador. “I don’t know…I need to start thinking about my club again and after that we’ll see what happens. I should talk to the coach and see how or in what capacity I can help out,” he said with a wink.

However, the uncertainty surrounding his personal future does not extend to that of the national team, for whom he has high hopes: “As I said earlier, there are a lot of talented players here who make up a good squad that can reach tournaments like this on a regular basis. My mind’s at ease knowing Ecuador have got a good future.”