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Monday, June 11, 2012

Points at home: Ecuador - Colombia

World Cup Qualifying is all about points. It doesn't matter how you get them, be it by a high score or a 1-0. It's also important to win, always win, at home. Ecuador continued with this in today's match versus Colombia in Quito as "Chucho" Benitez's header gave the home side the win. 

Maintaining a flawless record at home can be nearly impossible even for teams like Brazil and Argentina. With a marathon of 18 games that are spread over a 2.5 year period it's easy to let 2 to 4 points go at home through ties. This, however, is the major and most fundamental difference: these points should be recovered in away matches. It's also key to not lose at home, for regaining 3 away points is much more difficult.

Such was the task for Ecuador in 2010 qualifying: win away from home to recover 10 points lost at home.The losses were to Venezuela and Uruguay and the ties against Colombia, Brazil and Paraguay. During the qualification process for 2006 Ecuador did not lose a single match at home, thus helping them get the necessary points to advance to that tournament.

The other key issue with winning at home is the direct rivals. Colombia is one of three at the moment, along with Chile and Venezuela due to points and projected status. Peru and Bolivia are having a difficult time at the moment, as is Paraguay. Argentina and Uruguay are almost a given to qualify due to recent results and history. So the fact that all 3 points were retained from Colombia means that Ecuador has the chance to take away points in Bogota when the return leg takes place next year.

Securing points at home against Chile is a top priority at the moment, although wins versus Uruguay and/or Argentina will also help the chances. In the past, wins against Argentina and Brazil at home were seen as pathways to the World Cup. These days these results are more achievable and, in fact, are key in augmenting point status.

Aside from all the points talk here is the fact that playing in front of their countrymen is the ultimate satisfaction for a player. Antonio Valencia of Manchester United thanked the team and the stadium and the country after the win. He may be a world class player but he will never forget what it's like to play at home. All in attendance are united in one chant "Ecuador, Ecuador, Ecuador." This is difficult in America but commonplace elsewhere and it should be treasured. How nice is it when a full stadium erupts for a team's goal? That's how it felt when Benitez scored against Colombia: a massive GOOOOLLL from the stands of the Atahualpa to the Melecon 2000 in Guayaquil and all around the world where Ecuadorians reside. Well done.

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