I heard it from family members more than once: "I don't know if it's the World Cup without Ecuador in it." Yes, that's because he's seven years younger and last time Ecuador failed to make the tournament was in 1998, with elimination in 1997. That would have made him about 11. And if you're not a big fan at that age, things will just not register.
So yes, an absence indeed. For two qualifying cycles, Ecuador lit it up in Conmebol, taking down worthy foes like Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina and defending its home turf at the Atahualpa. They did not lose once at home for the 2006 campaign. Long gone are the days of Aguinaga (best Ecuador player in the 90s), Agustin "el Tin" Delgado (9 tallies, tied for first in Conmebol for 2002), Alfonso Obregon, and Ivan Kaviedes. One of my favorite players, Kaviedes was also a pioneer for Ecuador, playing in Italy, Spain and England. 2006 was his second World Cup after an ineffective 2002. He was a supersub and didn't disappoint himself with a sublime strike in Ecuador's 3-0 win over Costa Rica. It was also a memorable celebration, and one of the top 50 for FIFA.
Here's the clip: