Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Disillusioned : Ecuador world cup qualifying
After what was almost a miracle Sunday night in Buenos Aires and a disappointing tie by Argentina in the last second, today's match at the Atahualpa in Quito against Colombia was nothing more than another letdown akin to the Ecuador of old in the 1980s and 1990s that almost made it to the world cup. What's to blame? Not Sixto, not yet. Perhaps it was a mistake to take out "el Pato" Urrutia at halftime (that fault would lie with Sixto), but perhaps it was just an offense that's lacking a killer instinct--someone to partner up with Benitez. Caicedo may have worked but was brought in too late in the match. We were missing Jairo Campos, Ulises de la Cruz and Edison Mendez, but that should not be a defining factor, not when Ecuador now boasts Valencia (Wigan Athletic), Guerron (Getafe), Castillo (Red Star Belgrade) and even Caicedo (Man City). But then again Colombia also had its own legion of players abroad.
It's a miracle that we didn't lose, for the Colombians were just as close to opening the score as we were, especially considering the penalty not sanctioned by the game official. True, maybe Mendez could have made a difference given his track record at the Atahualpa and perhaps having Kaviedes in the game could have added that missing spice to the game. Perhaps it's the Liga de Quito hangover from some of the players and perhaps that team's tying record (all ties in the last 4 games to take them to the Libertadores final).
Let's play the numbers game. At this point in the last two qualifiers (2002 and 2006) the team had accrued 7 points out of 6 games. Mentioned here are the home games. For the 2002 qualifiers Ecuador won the home opener against Venezuela, beat Peru and then was tied at home by Colombia. For the 2006 tournament Ecuador beat Venezuela, tied Peru at home and then beat Colombia. Note that I have not mentioned the away games to Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina (the toughest matches). All those games were lost, albeit not by the punishing scores in the present round of qualifiers (0-5 to Brazil and 1-5 to Paraguay). Back to the numbers. So far this time around Ecuador has one tie, one loss and one win at home. That's 4 points out of a possible 9 at home. Thankfully the Ecuador of old showed up Sunday night and almost won the game in Argentina... so that's another point. So far we have 5 points in 6 games, 2 points behind what we've had in the past. So what's at stake? Well, I seriously doubt the team can make it to South Africa. It's time to pass on the 1.5 spots to other teams since Paraguay plus the eternal South Americans (Brazil and Argentina) are all but assured of the top 3 spots. I'd like to see Venezuela in it for once and finally make it to the biggest date in all of soccer. Chile would be my other pick but I may be picking with my heart here. Still, the road to South Africa is long and there are still 12 more games in the calendar. Winning the remainder of the home games (18 points) and rescuing a couple of ties and maybe a win away could bring about another miracle. We hope and pray and this time it may not be enough, but in soccer there are no absolutes and it's possible that one or two new stars may make the difference.