Young Ecuador wants to make history at the World Cup

Ecuador coach Gustavo Alfaro has named his 26-man squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. La Tri are playing in their fourth World Cup, their first appearance being just 20 years ago in 2002.

Alfaro made some headlines with his squad selection by leaving out Club León’s Byron Castillo. Since the South American nation qualified for the World Cup in Qatar, Castillo’s suitability for the national team has been questioned by rival federations such as Chile.

Castillo had been accused of not being eligible to play for Ecuador because he was born in Colombia. This evolved into a formal complaint by the Chilean FA, led to an investigation by FIFA and ended in a final decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Ecuador could take part in this year’s World Cup despite the court ruling that Castillo was born in Colombia. But he had Ecuadorian citizenship and was therefore entitled to represent Ecuador. Their penalty for using fake birth certificates for Castillo’s official player certification is a fine and three points deduction for 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification.

youth in the squad

The youth of this team bodes well for the World Cup in four years, but the good performances in World Cup qualifiers, in which they qualified fourth in relative comfort, plus the drama of participating in this year’s tournament are behind them, definitely means , that they want to aim high at the World Cup this year.

Youngsters like Bayer Leverkusen’s 20-year-old Piero Hincapié and Santos Laguna’s 25-year-old Félix Torres form a solid central defender pairing that gives the side a strong defensive foundation.

The only constant in this squad is the use of speed on the wings. Against certain opponents, Alfaro will use fast full-backs who can backtrack and also contribute to attacking play.

Castillo was a key right-back who would play as a full-back. With his omission, we can expect Ángelo Preciado to take his place. Brighton’s Pervis Estupiñán will be Ecuador’s right-back in the starting XI. The speedy defender showed his attacking skills in a crucial World Cup qualifier in Chile as he ran down the wing to score the opening goal.

At just 27, FC Augsburg’s Carlos Gruezo can be considered one of the team’s veterans. With 45 caps for the national team, he will defensively cover the central defender pairing as a defensive midfielder. The former FC Dallas player can get the team out of difficult defensive situations and initiate counterattacks with vision and precise passes.

Well rounded side

A positive aspect of this squad is the versatility of a large part of the squad. Brighton’s Moisés Caicedo is a player who plays various roles in attacking or defensive midfield. He can play to the right or left of a three-man midfield, or in the center of midfield. The latter suits a more defensive form into the formation. He can backtrack and win balls and then counterattack using his speed across the wing. Gonzalo Plata is another versatile winger who can play down the right flank. He can even play a more central offensive role behind a centre-forward.

The team could worry about the goal-scoring form of the strikers. Cruz Azul’s Michael Estrada led the team in World Cup qualifiers with six goals. He scored his last goal against Peru in early February. The problem is the lack of goals across the team this calendar year. For example, this year Ecuador scored only 5 goals in 10 games played. That includes three consecutive 0-0 draws in their last three friendlies before the World Cup.

The hope is that a veteran of the team, Enner Valencia, can regain his goalscoring form for Ecuador. With 13 goals for Fenerbahçe, he is currently the top scorer in the Turkish Süper Lig this season.

One of Alfaro’s surprise call-ups was Kevin Rodríguez. He is a forward who plays in the Ecuadorian second division. Rodríguez earned his first international cap for Ecuador in a friendly against Iraq in Spain last Saturday. The thought behind his appointment is certainly to have a particularly fast striker. If the scoring dry spell continues, Rodríguez fits the potential cure.

Ecuador is preparing for the 2022 World Cup

Despite the youth of this Ecuadorian side, a number of key players in the squad have international tournament experience that could give them an advantage. Goalkeepers Alexander Domínguez, Carlos Gruezo and Enner Valencia all played when Ecuador last qualified for the World Cup in 2014.

Four other players took part in Ecuador’s successful run to the South American U-20 Championship in 2019. In the summer of the same year, they helped guide the team to third place at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Ecuador moved into Group A. Therefore, the team meets Qatar, Senegal and the Netherlands. Each side presents the Ecuadorians with a great test. But it’s one they can successfully fulfill by clicking in every aspect of their game. The pressure will be high when they meet the hosts in the opening match of the World Cup on Sunday. La Tri can be young Nevertheless, there is plenty of experience in the squad. Ecuador can reverse the odds and impress. In fact, reaching the round of 16 is not out of the question. That equates to Ecuador’s best finish at a World Cup in 2006.

With a look at the potential bracket, there’s also a realistic shot of a historic quarter-final place.

Ecuador’s World Cup Squad

goalkeeper: Hernán Galíndez (SD Aucas), Moisés Ramírez (CSD Independiente del Valle), Alexander Domínguez (LDU Quito)

defender: Félix Torres (Santos Laguna), Piero Hincapié (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Robert Arboleda (FC Sao Paulo), Diego Palacios (FC Los Angeles), Pervis Estupiñán (FC Brighton & Hove Albion), Xavier Arreaga (FC Seattle Sounders), Angelo Preciado (KRC Genk), William Pacho (Royal Antwerp FC), Jackson Porozo (ES Troyes AC)

midfield player: José Cifuentes (Los Angeles FC), Carlos Gruezo (FC Augsburg), Ángel Mena (Club León), Jeremy Sarmiento (Brighton & Hove Albion FC), Gonzalo Plata (Real Valladolid), Jhegson Méndez (Los Angeles FC), Alan Franco (Talleres de Cordoba), Moises Caicedo (Brighton & Hove Albion FC)

Forward: Djorkaeff Reasco (Newell’s Old Boys), Romario Ibarra (CF Pachuca), Michael Estrada (Cruz Azul), Enner Valencia (Fenerbahçe SK), Ayrton Preciado (Santos Laguna), Kevin Rodríguez (Imbabura SC)

PHOTO: IMAGO/Photosport

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