After successfully negotiating their previous two qualifying campaigns, Ecuador missed out on participating at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, finishing in sixth position in the regional league table, just one point behind Uruguay, who would eventually make it to the tournament via a play-off with Costa Rica. La Tri’s best performance to date in qualifying came during their attempts to take part in Korea/Japan 2002, when they finished second behind Argentina. Four years later, they were celebrating a final position of third, once again synonymous with qualification. The Ecuadorians’ worst performance under the current system was the seventh spot they recorded ahead of France 1998.
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 current crop
Reinaldo Rueda took charge of Ecuador in August 2010, just a month after guiding Honduras to South Africa 2010. His objective is clear: to follow in the footsteps of the two Colombian compatriots that preceded him in the job, Hernan Dario Gomez and Luis Suarez, and take Ecuador to Brazil 2014. Boasting a stable squad that has gone through a natural process of renewal, the Ecuadorians are likely to be a major candidate for one of South America’s qualifying slots. Despite these high expectations, they endured a poor Copa America 2011 campaign, not registering a single win and departing after the group stage.
The key players
Wingers Antonio Valencia and Christian Noboa, as well as forwards Christian Benitez and Felipe Caicedo, represent an exciting new wave for Ecuadorian football, but they are also ably assisted by a handful of evergreen stalwarts with European experience, such as Edison Mendez, Walter Ayovi and Segundo Castillo.
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