Ecuador World Cup 2022 guide: Key players, injuries, tactics & tournament prediction

Enner Valencia is Ecuador's captain
Enner Valencia is Ecuador's captain / Briony Painter | 90min

The youngest team to qualify from South America after finishing fourth in that section, Ecuador's participation in the tournament was in doubt until they were cleared to play by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who sided with Fifa over the eligibility of Byron Castillo.

Chile and Peru had both lodged complaints over the right-back's participation in qualifying, claiming that he had falsified his age and place of birth and was in fact Colombian. FIFA, however, decided that Castillo was eligible to play for Ecuador and the matter has now been resolved for good after the ruling from CAS on November 8.

Argentine manager Gustavo Alfaro has rebuilt Ecuador since leaving Boca Juniors and taking over the team, blooding a new generation to replace the likes of Felipe Caicedo, Antonio Valencia, Christian Noboa and Jefferson Montero.

He will, therefore, be relying on a select few veterans to lead, notably captain Enner Valencia, goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez and ball-winning midfielder Carlos Gruezo, who were all part of the 2014 World Cup squad.

That tournament ended with elimination in the group stages and only a single win against Honduras to show for their efforts. Instead, Ecuador will be hoping to relive their performance at the World Cup in 2006, when they beat Costa Rica and Poland to advance to the knockout rounds for the first (and only) time before being narrowly defeated by England in the Round of 16.

Here's everything you need to know about Ecuador ahead of their fourth World Cup.

When are Ecuador's group games?

  • Qatar vs Ecuador (November 20, 16:00 GMT)
  • Netherlands vs Ecuador (November 25, 16:00 GMT)
  • Ecuador vs Senegal (November 29, 15:00 GMT)
  • Ecuador vs Qatar H2H Record: Played 1, Lost 1
  • Ecuador vs Netherlands H2H Record: Played 2, Drawn 1, Lost 1
  • Ecuador vs Senegal H2H Record: Played 1, Lost 1

Who is in Ecuador's 26-player squad for the World Cup?

Goalkeepers: Alexander Dominguez (Liga de Quito), Hernan Galindez (Aucas), Moises Ramirez (Independiente del Valle).

Defenders: Pervis Estupinan (Brighton & Hove Albion), Angelo Preciado (Gent), Piero Hincapie (Bayer Leverkusen), Xavier Arreaga (Seattle Sounders), Diego Palacios (Los Angeles FC), Jackson Porozo (Troyes), Robert Arboleda (Sao Paulo), Felix Torres (Santos Laguna), William Pacho (Royal Antwerp FC).

Midfielders: Moises Caicedo (Brighton), Jose Cifuentes (Los Angeles FC), Alan Franco (Talleres), Jhegson Mendez (Los Angeles FC), Carlos Gruezo (Augsburg), Gonzalo Plata (Valladolid), Angel Mena (Leon), Ayrton Preciado (Santos Laguna), Romario Ibarra (Pachuca), Jeremy Sarmiento (Brighton)

Strikers: Enner Valencia (Fenerbahce), Michael Estrada (Cruz Azul), Djorkaeff Reasco (Newell's Old Boys), Kevin Rodriguez (Imbabura SC)

Which Ecuador players are missing the World Cup through injury?

Experienced centre-back Roberto Arbeloda hasn't played for his club side Sao Paulo since June 19 due to a fractured ankle but will be given a chance to prove his fitness against Iraq.

Santos Laguna forward Ayrton Preciado is in a similar situation having missed the entire club season with a leg break but has also been called up for the final friendly. It does, however, seem unlikely he has the match fitness to take part in Qatar.

The only other injury of note for Ecuador is winger Joao Rojas, who is out of the tournament after suffering an ACL tear in July.

Who are Ecuador's best players?

Brighton's Moises Caicedo is a huge talent for Ecuador
Brighton's Moises Caicedo is a huge talent for Ecuador / Pool/GettyImages

Pervis Estupinan

The first of two Brighton & Hove Albion players in the Ecuador squad is Pervis Estupinan, the pacy left wing-back who joined the Premier League club from Villarreal in the summer. Estupinan has 28 caps for his country and will be a key attacking outlet for Ecuador with marauding runs forward from full-back.

Piero Hincapie

The 20-year-old Bayer Leverkusen player is also comfortable at left-back but will start in his preferred centre-back position for his country. Despite his age, Hincapie has already made 33 Bundesliga appearances and looks set to anchor his country's defence for the next decade and beyond.

Moises Caicedo

Moises Caicedo has already attracted interest from the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea despite only 21 appearances in the Premier League for Brighton, emphasising just how impressive the central midfield dynamo has been.

Having just turned 21 years of age, Caicedo has a very bright future ahead of him and will be key to Ecuador winning their midfield battles in Qatar.

Enner Valencia

The skipper has an impressive goalscoring record for his country with 35 goals in 74 games and has been in good form with Fenerbahce, too, having scored 12 in 11 league games for the Turkish giants so far this season.

At 33, this should be his final World Cup and the former West Ham striker will be hoping to add to his three goals from 2014.

Ecuador predicted starting lineup

La Tricolor will likely set up in a 4-3-3 formation with captain Valencia spearheading the attack, although Alfaro does have the option of partnering him with the Cruz Azul striker Michael Estrada in a 4-4-2. Equally, Valencia can move out wide to accommodate the target man.

Alfaro has a decision to make at right-back, where Angelo Preciado, Byron Castillo and Xavier Arreaga could all start. Beyond that, he will need to choose between either Felix Torres and Jackson Porozo to partner Hincapie in central defence.

Ecuador predicted XI: Dominguez; Castillo, Porozo, Hincapie, Estupinan; Franco, Gruezo, Caicedo; Plata, Valencia, Ibarra.

Ecuador's form going into the World Cup

Goals have been hard to come by for Ecuador, although they avoided defeat in all five of their recent friendlies before the World Cup and beat Nigeria. The results would perhaps look more impressive had Valencia converted a late penalty against Japan in their most recent fixture.

They will be difficult to beat, that much is clear, as demonstrated by two 1-1 draws against Argentina and Brazil during qualifying at the beginning of the year. Whether they will score enough goals to advance through the group stages remains to be seen.

Ecuador's last five results

Ecuador 1-0 Nigeria
Mexico 0-0 Ecuador
Ecuador 1-0 Cabo Verde
Saudi Arabia 0-0 Ecuador
Japan 0-0 Ecuador

Where will Ecuador finish at the World Cup?

Ecuador made it to the Round of 16 in Germany in 2006, a feat they would do well to repeat in Qatar. They've been drawn alongside the hosts and will open the tournament against Qatar on November 20 - a potential banana skin given the circumstances.

Should they come through that initial test unscathed they will need to step up against the Netherlands and Senegal, two much stronger teams on paper. It could come down to a straight shootout between Ecuador and the reigning Africa Cup of Nations champions for a runner-up spot in the group, but La Tri have the ability to squeak through if other results fall their way.

Even if they do manage to edge themselves into the knockout stages, however, it's hard to envisage them progressing much further in the tournament.

Prediction: Group stage exit