How they qualified
Ecuador were plagued by inconsistency during their qualifying campaign. While La Tricolor went undefeated at home, beating every opponent in Quito except Argentina, with whom they drew, the side was unable to reproduce that form on the road, failing to win at all and drawing just three times. Nevertheless, one such stalemate – against Uruguay in Montevideo – proved decisive as Ecuador finished level on points with La Celeste but grabbed the last automatic qualifying spot thanks to their superior goal difference (four compared to Uruguay’s zero).
With a team that was among the top four in the standings on 14 of the 16 matchdays and that had to overcome the tragic death of Cristian Benitez, coach Reinaldo Rueda became the third Colombian to guide Ecuador to FIFA World Cup™ qualification.
FIFA World Cup finals history
While Ecuador failed to extricate themselves from a tough group at Korea/Japan 2002, their first-ever appearance at the final stages of a FIFA World Cup, the story was quite different at Germany 2006, where the South Americans got as far as the last 16, having surprisingly finished second in their pool behind the host nation. Unfortunately for the CONMEBOL representatives, England would prove a hurdle too far; the Three Lions triumphed 1-0 to move on to the quarter-finals.
The key players
Wingers Antonio Valencia and Cristhian Noboa, as well as forwards Felipe Caicedo and Jefferson Montero, represent an exciting new wave for Ecuadorian football, but they are also ably assisted by evergreen stalwarts with European experience in Edison Mendez and Walter Ayovi.
Coach: Reinaldo Rueda
Best performance in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 (Round of 16)
Former stars: Ulises de la Cruz, Agustin Delgado, Jose Francisco Cevallos