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?
Dušan Drašković (1 April 1988– ) was given much credit for the recent success. He had been a head coach for various clubs in the Yugoslavian league in the 1980s, before suddenly finding himself installed as national team coach in another corner of the world. The background for this recruitment was a request sent from the Ecuadorian FA to their Yugoslavian counterparts, inquiring if they had any possible candidates for the vacant position. The choice had fell on Yugoslavia, as it had been the hope of the Ecuadorians that they could find someone able to follow in the footsteps of Vladica Popović, the Yugoslav coach who had acquired a big name in South America in the 1970s. The Copa America had been Drašković’ first big test, and the results had been above expectations.
The most notable thing with Drašković’ 4-4-2 formation is the use of two playmaker types in the wide positions in midfield. Both Alex Aguinaga and Hamilton Cuvi are players who have the skill to open up defences with their skill and passing abilities. To accommodate them both in the team and ensure enough defensive stability, Drašković has evidently chosen to play them as wide midfielders, with two more defensive-minded and hard-working players between them (Romero and Fajardo).
They are probably also one of the more direct teams in the CONMEBOL zone, and may attempt hopeful balls in the direction of the two forwards, who are likely to be Byron Tenório and Raúl Avilés.
Ecuador only conceded 2 goals in the Copa América, but did not always look that confident in their defensive work. Question marks must also be raised of how effectively the two central midfielders cover and shield the space ahead of the defense.
20.06.1989: Peru 2-1 Ecuador (neutral ground in Port of Spain, Trinidad&Tobago)
Line-up: Mendoza – Alcivar, Macías, Quiñónez, Capurro – Marsetti (Montanero), Fajardo (Avilés), Guerrero, Verduga (Muñoz) – Benítez, Tenório (Cuvi)
02.07.1989: Ecuador 1-0 Uruguay (neutral ground in Goiânia, Brazil)
Line-up (4-4-2): Morales – Izquierdo, Macías, Quiñónez, Capurro – Aguinaga (Marsetti), Fajardo, Rosero, Cuvi (c) – Tenório (Benítez), Avilés
04.07.1989: Ecuador 0-0 Argentina (neutral ground in Goiânia, Brazil)
Line-up: Morales – Izquierdo, Macías, Quiñónez, Capurro – Aguinaga, Fajardo, Rosero, Cuvi – Tenório (Benítez), Avilés (comment: Capurro red card)
06.07.1989: Ecuador 0-0 Bolivia (neutral ground in Goiânia, Brazil)
Line-up: Morales – Izquierdo, Macías, Quiñónez, Alcivar (Benítez) – Aguinaga, Fajardo, Rosero, Cuvi – Tenório (Marsetti), Avilés
08.07.1989: Chile 2-1 Ecuador (neutral ground in Goiânia, Brazil)
Line-up: Morales – Izquierdo, Macías, Quiñónez, Capurro – Aguinaga, Fajardo (Montanero), Rosero, Cuvi – Tenório (Benítez), Avilés