• The young full-back plays for FC Krasnodar in Russia
  • “The thought of playing here with my country is fantastic”
  • He knows what he will do during the World Cup if La Tri do not qualify

When Cristian Ramirez signed for Russian side FC Krasnodar towards the end of 2016, he already had the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ on his mind. Ecuador were occupying third place in the South American qualifying competition and, although the team had lost some of their consistency, it was hard to envisage their campaign ending in failure.

However, ten months down the line, and things look very different. Following recent reversals at the hands of Brazil and Peru, La Tri are on a run of four consecutive defeats that has left them languishing in eighth place on 20 points. With two games left to play, Ecuador’s fate is no longer in their hands.

“Of course, part of my decision to come to Russia was because it was going to host the World Cup,” Ramirez confessed to FIFA.com. “The thought of playing here with my country was, and still is, fantastic. And although it’s looking tough for us, I’m not going to rule it out just yet.”

My effort has been and will be constant until I see many more dreams come true, both professionally and personally,  and I am always standing by my country!

But how tough, exactly? First, Ecuador need to take six points from their two remaining fixtures away to Chile, in sixth place on 23 points, and at home to Argentina, in fifth on 24 points. They then have to hope that other results go their way.

“It’s hard, now that it’s no longer in our hands,” he continued, “but the other teams are dealing with issues of their own. We haven’t had the rub of the green at key moments in recent matches, which has left us having to chase games and all that entails. If we’re clinical, then we can beat them.”

And if not? “If we give it our all and it doesn’t go our way, there will naturally be disappointment, some mixed emotions. It would be hard to bear. But that’s football, and there’s always another World Cup around the corner to give it another shot.”

In the worst case scenario, you might think, at least Ramirez would be able to enjoy the World Cup as a spectator. After all, Krasnodar is just 300 kilometres north of Sochi and a little further south of Rostov-on-Don, two of the tournament’s host cities.

Ramirez, however, is not so sure. “If we don’t qualify, I’ll plan other things. I may watch some matches on TV, but I wouldn’t go to the stadiums or anything like that. I would never be able to enjoy the World Cup in Russia without Ecuador.”

Ramirez over the years

  • 1994: born on 12 August
  • 2009: makes his debut for Independiente del Valle at 16 years of age
  • 2011: takes part in the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico
  • 2012: nearly signs for Tottenham Hotspur
  • 2013: signs for Fortuna Dusseldorf. He has also played for FC Nuremberg and Ferencvaros
  • 2013: wins his first senior Ecuador cap against Honduras
  • 2016: takes part in the Copa America Centenario

Why full-back?
“Like everyone else, I dreamed about attacking and scoring goals, but only from the wing like Roberto Carlos at Real Madrid. I’m left-footed and, like him, I’ve got a powerful shot. I admire Marcelo, for his style of play and the career he’s had, and Walter Ayovi, who’s a model professional.”

A goal worthy of Roberto Carlos?
“The only one I’ve scored for the national team, against Chile in these qualifiers. It was particularly special because it was my first appearance in the qualifiers, and we won. It was a dream strike with my left foot. I remember it clearly because, for my birthday, my wife framed a photo of my celebration.”

How does he see his future with the national team?
“After six years in Europe, I think I’ve gained a lot of valuable experience, but I will go wherever it takes in order to fight to represent Ecuador. Without being arrogant, my dream is to captain the national team one day.”