Ecuador back in top 50
© AFP

After witnessing their side rejoin the hunt for a berth at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Ecuador fans can also celebrate their national team's impressive ten-place leap in the October edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Currently in 42nd position, La Tricolor are firmly back in the world's top 50, an invisible barrier they had been unable to break since June 2007.

Indeed, 2007 was a historic year for Ecuador as far as the Ranking is concerned - the team under then coach Luis Suarez reaching an all-time high of 24th in March of that year. What goes up must come down however, and Ecuador had dropped all the way down to 60th place by July 2008. Though their lowest ranking since September 2000, it was still some way off their lowest ever position of 76th, from June 1995.

Ecuador's recent rise means that they are now the seventh highest-ranked South American side, while their ten-place jump in October was only bettered on that continent by Peru, who moved up 15 spots over the same period.

Cause and effect
Loosely speaking, Ecuador's revival began with the arrival of head coach Sixto Vizuete, the first Ecuadorian to occupy the post since the successful reigns of Colombian strategists Hernan Gomez and the aforementioned Suarez. Under Gomez, La Tricolor qualified for their first ever FIFA World Cup finals at Korea/Japan 2002, before Suarez repeated the feat by leading them safely to Germany 2006.

Vizuete was appointed in place of Suarez after Ecuador had lost their first three qualifiers for South Africa 2010. The team subsequently put together a run of six games unbeaten, taking 12 of a possible 18 points and dragging themselves closer to the group jostling for a place at the next FIFA World Cup finals.

More importantly still, Ecuador appear to have rediscovered the solidity that helped them reach the last two editions of the global showpiece. They have made Quito a home fortress once more, recording wins over Peru (5-1), Bolivia (3-1) and Chile (1-0), with only Colombia coming away undefeated after a 0-0 draw. Vizuete's charges also picked up valuable points away from home, holding Argentina 1-1 and Uruguay 0-0.

This unbeaten spell came to an end on 15 October on their trip to Puerto La Cruz, home side Venezuela coming from behind to record a 3-1 success. La Tricolor remain in sixth spot, however, and are just one point from the fifth place currently held by Uruguay - a position that would seal an all-important play-off match against opponents from the North, Central America and Caribbean Zone. Up for grabs, no less a prize than a ticket to South Africa 2010.