Ayovi: It's all or nothing for Ecuador
Ecuador lie sixth in the South American qualifiers for Russia 2018, outside the qualification places
Having won their opening four matches, they have picked up only eight points out of the last 30 available
Their last four matches are against Brazil (a), Peru (h), Chile (a), Argentina (h)
Before the March double-header Ecuador lay third in the South American qualifying competition for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, in one of the four direct qualification places. Defeats away to Paraguay and at home to Colombia have seen them drop to sixth in the table, however.
“We’ve got ourselves into a bit of a mess now,” Ecuador captain Walter Ayovi tells FIFA.com. “We’re concerned, but we know that our qualification hopes are still intact. It’s all or nothing now and it’s going to go down to the wire.”
So what reasons can the skipper find for a team winning its first four matches in the competition to then pick up only eight points out of a possible 30? “We’ve had lapses of concentration that have cost us dear at both ends of the pitch. I wouldn’t say teams have been better than us. They’ve just taken their opportunities.”
The 37-year-old full-back, who plays his club football for Mexican side Monterrey, added: “We’ve looked good up front but we haven’t taken our chances. We maybe created fewer opportunities before, but we took more of them. The same has happened in defence: every time we make a mistake, we pay for it with a goal. That gives the opposition confidence and control of the match.”
The stat 2 - The number of home defeats Ecuador have suffered in the current qualifying campaign, the same number they suffered in the qualifiers for South Africa 2010, the only world finals they have missed since reaching Korea/Japan 2002.
So what does Ayovi put those home losses down to? “Our performance level was different in the past. We had six or seven players who played in Quito and they ran more. We run differently now. We have to travel here, train and get used to the altitude ourselves.”
What lies ahead? *Brazil (a), Peru (h), Chile (a), Argentina (h)*
Ecuador will have a chance to start reversing their fortunes when they face the already-qualified Brazil in August. “We had a long break after winning our first four matches and that worked against us,” Ayovi said. “Maybe a long break will work in our favour now. The idea is to play friendlies so we can improve. We can win there. Amazing things always happen in football.”
He had this to say about Ecuador’s other remaining rivals: “Peru have come back into contention and they’re direct rivals now. Chile are a great side, but haven’t been that much more consistent than us, and Argentina have always been tough opponents for us and will be so again.”
Signing off with a message for the fans, he said: “They need to keep on believing in us. A lot of people think we’re out of it but it’s still in our hands. We all deserve to make it to the World Cup.”
Did you know?
The home defeat to Colombia in March was Ayovi’s 50th appearance in a World Cup qualifier (in his fifth qualifying campaign).
With 121 international appearances, he is Ecuador second most-capped player, behind Agustin Delgado with 168.
Ayovi has played at two World Cups (Korea/Japan 2002 and Brazil 2014) and in five Copa America editions (2001, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2016), the last two as captain.