The World Cup was usually seen as a stage very much beyond the scope of Ecuador. Except for 1966, they had never been able to challenge for one of the qualifying berths in the CONMEBOL zone. Between 1966 and the upcoming qualification, the team had recorded one measly win (v Paraguay at home in 1981).
There was a sense of unexpected, raw optimism in the Ecuadorian air, however, as they had just delivered one of their better performances in the Copa America in living memory. Although they once again had exited from the group stage, they had famously drawn against current World Cup champions Argentina (0-0) and won against Uruguay (1-0), and overall been unusually competitive. The win against the later finalists Uruguay has later become part of Ecuadorian football folklore, often claimed to be a small turning point in the nation’s footballing history. Could they indeed replicate their performances in the upcoming 1990 World Cup qualification? Read more …
Qualifier 1: Colombia 2-0 Ecuador
20.08.1989, Estadio Metropolitano (Barranquilla)
Line-up (4-4-2): Morales – Izquierdo, Macías, Quiñónez, Capurro – Aguinaga, Fajardo, Rosero, Cuvi (c) (Marsetti 78) – Benítez (Tenório 64), Avilés
Ecuador’s campaign got under way with a deserved defeat in Barranquilla, where they were second best for most of the game. In their relatively conservative 4-4-2, a lot of attacking responsibility fell to wide midfielders Aguinaga and Cuvi, and neither managed to put their mark on the game. At the back, Macías lost two vital aerial challenges with Iguarán, who scored both the opponent’s goals. Quiñónez, Fajardo and probably also Morales and Avilés left with their credibility intact.
Qualifier 2: Ecuador 0-0 Colombia
03.09.1989, Estadio Monumental (Guayaquil)
Line-up (4-4-2): Morales – Izquierdo, Quinteros, Quiñónez, Capurro – Aguinaga, Fajardo, Rosero (Benítez 76), Cuvi (c) (Verduga 70) – Avilés, Tenório
Despite the scoreless outcome, this is a fine and entertaining game of football, and Ecuador are certainly playing their part. Quinteros has been brought in to handle the aerial threat of Iguarán, and he acquits himself well, something which is also the case from several of his team mates. Despite conceding at least three massive goalscoring opportunities, the Ecuadorians produce some themselves, and Avilés, in particular, should’ve converted one of his two big chances. Aguinaga started to the right, but would soon enough switch permanently to the left. Draškovic converted to 4-3-3 for the final quarter of an hour in an attempt at getting that priceless winner.
Qualifier 3: Paraguay 2-1 Ecuador
10.09.1989, Estadio Chaco del Defensores (Asunción)
Line-up (4-4-2): Morales – Bravo, Quinteros, Quiñónez (c), Capurro – Muñoz, Fajardo, Rosero (Cuvi 74), Guerrero – Aguinaga (Tenório 67), Avilés
Ecuador arrived in Asunción with a positive frame of mind, despite their tally of just a solitary point until then, and with the knowledge that Paraguay had looked strong in their win against Colombia. The visitors enjoy plenty of possession throughout the game, but they lack that creative ingenuity to unlock a sturdy host defence, in which big captain Delgado excels. With neither of Cuvi or Aguinaga starting wide in midfield like in the two ties versus Colombia, manager Drašković had been hoping for aid from Muñoz and Guerrero. Aguinaga was tame up front, clearly uncomfortable against the physical Delgado. Avilés got a late consolation goal, but the 2-1 defeat meant they were now completely out of the qualification reckoning.
Qualifier 4: Ecuador 3-1 Paraguay
24.09.1989, Estadio Monumental (Guayaquil)
Goals: Aguinaga, Marsetti, Avilés
Line-up (4-4-2): Mendoza – Bravo, Macías, Quiñónez (c), Capurro – Muñoz, Fajardo, Marsetti (Verduga 84), Guerrero (Tenório 76) – Aguinaga, Avilés
Having steadily improved throughout the qualification, Ecuador would round their campaign off on a high. They were up against a Paraguay side playing for a win to qualify for the intercontinental play-off spot, but despite falling behind before 20 minutes, a spirited Ecuador, which profited from pacy breaks, were back on level terms through a classy finish from Mexico bound starlet Aguinaga just after the half-way point in the opening 45 minutes. Despite coming up against an experienced, yet top-heavy, Paraguayan outfit, Ecuador were neve in awe, and they stuck to their principles, which were a tight defence, and plenty of pace coming forward, typically provided by Aguinaga, Guerrero and Avilés. In central midfield, Marsetti excelled, and he deservedly got himself on the scoresheet for 2-1. Ten minutes from time, both teams had a player dismissed, but Avilés found time to add a third with a low, composed finish, and Drašković could take plenty of credit for the way Ecuador had peformed in the qualification against such opposition.
Ecuador entered the qualification for Italia ’90 firmly as underdogs to Colombia and Paraguay. They had not done a whole lot during the recently held Copa América to suggest that they had enough in their locker to rival the other two, though under Yugoslav coach Dušan Drašković they certainly left a competent impression.
Their opening tie in Colombia had been lost by a margin which had probably been expected even before departure. Centre-back Wilson Macías had failed to contain Colombia’s top striker Iguarán, who had scored with two world-class headers. Up front, the Ecuadorians had looked light-weight, not producing anything even nearly threatening to goalkeeper Higuita.
Ecuador continued in much the same 4-4-2 in the home tie against the Colombians two weeks after. A couple of changes in personnel saw to that they looked improved, though, through the imposing Tulio Quinteros at the back, as well as the burly Byron Tenório up top. Despite creating a few decent openings themselves, Ecuador were probably a tad fortunate not to concede, and 0-0 must have been a very good return from their point of view.
Another step in the right direction proved the journey to Asunción, despite a second away defeat of the campaign against a very experienced Paraguayan outfit. Ecuador had left out captain Hamilton Cuvi, with Drašković giving gangly stopper Hólger Quiñónez the armband. With less emphasis on the two wide players, Cuvi and young and hugely talented Álex Aguinaga, working as a playmaking pair, even midfield man Julio César Rosero looked more comfortable. Aguinaga had been switched to a forward role alongside the domestic league’s leading scorer Raúl Avilés. Despite battling well against their hosts, Ecuador left Paraguay with a 2-1 defeat.
Two weeks on, it was time for the final tie of the group, with visiting Paraguay needing a win in order to finish atop the pile. They had looked gradually poorer during the qualification, however, and with Ecuador’s arrow pointing in the opposite direction, perhaps had one ought to see this one coming: A 3-1 home win left the visitors stunned, and for the second successive game against Ecuador, Paraguay had a player sent off. Drašković had set his team up in a compact manner, and against an unbalanced and highly attack-minded opponent, they profitted from quick breaks. In addition to the three goals, Ecuador had created a further number of opportunities to score.
They could take pride in their campaign, and finishing just two points off the top spot must have been a fine feather in the cap for their Yugoslav manager. Mr Drašković could well have a bright future with this team, which should be kept together for the next Copa América in two years’ time.
Stand-out players had been midfielder Kléber Fajardo and full-back Luis Capurro, who had followed up his excellent, individually speaking, Copa tournament with some fine displays in the qualification. In addition, Avilés had notched in both their two final matches, and a player like the richly talented Aguinaga would only benefit from his move to Mexico, where he would come up against better opponents to enhance his own level.
Did they have some issues between the sticks, though? Neither of their two goalkeepers impressed: Carlos Morales kept goal for their first three ties, while his back-up Víctor Mendoza was given the opportunity in the final match against Paraguay. His was the weakest of the four goalkeeping performances.
Final position: 3 (out of 3)
Total record: 4 1 1 2 4-5 3
Home record: 2 1 1 0 3-1 3
Away record: 2 0 0 2 1-4 0
Number of players used: 19
Number of players including unused substitutes: 19
Ever-presents (360 minutes): 4 (Quiñónez, Capurro, Fajardo, Avilés)
Leading goalscorer: Raúl Avilés (2)
Yellow/red cards: 8/1
– game by game
|Player||Col (a)||Col (h)||Par (a)||Par (h)||Apps||Mins|
|Pos||Player||Average rating||Number of rated games|
Top three individual ratings:
1 Aguinaga 7,6 vs Paraguay (h)
2 Bravo 7,4 vs Paraguay (h)
3 Capurro 7,3 vs Paraguay (h)
Like was the case with some of the other South American nations, Ecuador would also not play another international until 1991. They would keep Dušan Drašković on as their head coach right through to 1993, and his five year reign was in fact unprecedented in the national team’s history through to the new millennium.