To prepare you for the tournament, The18 has launched team-by-team previews for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. This is the preview for Group A's Ecuador.
Ecuador World Cup 2022 Preview
World Cup Appearances: Fourth
Best Finish: Round of 16 (2006)
How They Got Here: Fourth-place in Conmebol
Coach: Gustavo Alfaro (Argentine)
Strongest XI: (4-3-3) Alexander Domínguez; Pervis Estupiñán, Piero Hincapié, Félix Torres, Ángelo Preciado; Moisés Caicedo, Sebas Méndez, Carlos Gruezo; Enner Valencia, Michael Estrada, Ángel Mena
Injuries: Joao Rojas (cruciate ligament), Gonzalo Plata (hip), Robert Arboleda (ankle)
What's To Like: Ecuador achieved qualification with a formidable home record that included just one defeat, five wins and draws against both Brazil and Argentina. La Tri also drew with Brazil at the Copa América. Manager Gustavo Alfaro (formerly of Boca Juniors) sets his team up from back to front, while the attack is led by the hugely experienced duo of Enner Valencia and Ángel Mena.
That strong veteran presence is balanced by an emerging generation of players based throughout Europe, including Valladolid's Gonzalo Plata, Brighton's Moisés Caicedo and Bayer Leverkusen's Piero Hincapié.
There's also the dream draw. Ecuador will be expecting three points from its opening match against Qatar, then it's an unproven Netherlands and finally a Senegal team that employs a similar style of play.
What's Not To Like: The team's record in qualifying away from home (2-5-2) wasn't nearly as impressive, and there are legitimate questions over Ecuador's ability to actually trouble the Netherlands and Senegal in attack. Starting striker Michael Estrada is now at Cruz Azul after a forgettable stint leading D.C. United's attack, and the midfield's strength is in fulfilling its defensive responsibilities rather than getting forward.
Ecuador also has a squad that looks poised for bigger and better things at the 2026 World Cup. According to Statista, Ecuador's squad will be the youngest in Qatar apart from the USMNT.
X-Factor: Gonzalo Plata. The next big thing in Ecuadorian football was spotted and signed by Portugal's Sporting before joining Valladolid on loan last year. The winger played an influential role in the club's promotion to LaLiga, and he's since joined on a permanent deal. The 21-year-old already boasts an impressive international record with 28 caps and five goals, including strikes against Uruguay, Colombia and Peru in WCQ.
He's missed time this season with ankle and hip issues, but Plata has since returned to action.
Best Hair: Jeremy Sarmiento
Most Likely To Fuck It All Up: 35-year-old goalkeeper Alexander Domínguez enjoys a walk on the wild side.
— fuboTV (@fuboTV) January 27, 2022
What Will Make This A Good World Cup: It's been 16 years since Ecuador made its only appearance in the knockout rounds. That's the mission.
Bonus Prediction: The year is 2023. Chile is still trying to take Ecuador's spot at Qatar 2022.