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8 reasons why this South American country can be the big surprise of the World Cup in Qatar. And it is not Argentina!

Ecuador intends to have the best World Cup ever in Qatar 2022, says Michael Estrada, La Tri’s top scorer in the preliminaries for the final tournament with 6 goals. The “Tricolors” are in Group A of the World Cup, alongside hosts Qatar, the Netherlands, and Senegal.

“We have the desire and ambition to make the best World Cup,” said the Cruz Azul striker.

And it might not be just statements of convenience. Ecuador’s national team could be the big surprise of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. In any case, the Ecuadorian national team stands out as one of those who will put on a show at the World Cup.

Ecuador was the team with the lowest average age in the South American preliminaries for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, at 25.8. Gustavo Alfaro’s national team qualified fourth in the South American group for the final tournament preliminaries, just two points behind third-placed Uruguay.

But their place in the preliminaries is not the only reason why Ecuador could be the surprise package in Qatar. Here are a few others below:

1. Senegal, the team tipped to qualify from Group A alongside the Netherlands, suffered a major blow when they lost their leader and star player Sadio Mane to injury two weeks before the start of the season. Without the Bayern striker, Senegal is a much more approachable opponent and suddenly it looks like Ecuador is favourites to qualify alongside the Netherlands.

2. Three players from the Ecuador squad are also part of Brighton’s squad, this season’s Premier League revelations: defender Pervis Estupinan (24) and midfielders Moises Caicedo (21) and Jeremy Sarmiento (20). The Seagulls were in the top six-ten days before the start of the World Cup, despite a change of coach. Graham Potter left for Chelsea, but Italian Roberto De Zerbi proved a worthy replacement for the former coach, so the Seagulls’ form was not lost. This season, Brighton have beaten Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal, among others, in the league and the League Cup. Caicedo has collected 13 games and one goal in the championship, Estupinand has 10 games played, and Sarmiento, it’s true, has only two appearances.

3. Veteran Enner Valencia, the leader of this national team, is having a fantastic season at Fenerbahce at 33. The striker has scored 12 times in 11 matches in the Turkish Super League, and in total has scored 14 times for the yellow-and-white side in all competitions before the season was interrupted for the World Cup in Qatar. Valencia is the current top scorer in Turkey’s top league, with three more goals than any other player. At the same time, the Ecuadorian star is also second in the assists ranking, with four in the Turkish top flight.

4. In the World Cup preliminaries, Ecuador has achieved some excellent results, which, replicated at the World Cup, would help them go far: 4-2 against Uruguay, 6-1 against Colombia, 0-0 against Chile, 0-0 against Colombia, 2-0 against Chile, 1-1 against Brazil or 1-1 against Argentina. In friendlies lately, Ecuador has beaten Mexico and Nigeria, and managed another draw, in a second training match against Mexico, another World Cup qualifier.

5. In their last World Cup, Ecuador drew France, 0-0, defeated Honduras, 2-1, and lost to Switzerland in the last 90+3 minutes when Seferovic scored the winning goal, 2-1, the defeat making the difference in qualifying from the group.

6. In the last Copa America played, in 2021, Ecuador reached the ‘quarter-finals’, where they were defeated by Argentina, who would go on to win the trophy. Before that, however, in the group stage, ‘La Tri’ had only been beaten once, narrowly, 0-1, by Colombia, after holding host nation Brazil itself to 1-1, Peru (2-2) and Venezuela (2-2).

7. In its last 14 matches, official or friendly, Ecuador has suffered only one defeat, 1-3 against Paraguay in March. Otherwise, 5 wins and 8 draws. In their last five games – all friendlies – La Tri has not conceded a goal!

8. Ecuador has many talented young players, some of whom we mentioned earlier. We also mentioned that La Tri had the lowest average age of all South American teams in the preliminaries. One of the youngsters who could make a difference for Ecuador at the finals is Piero Hincapié. Currently with Leverkusen, for whom he also played in the Champions League, the 20-year-old centre-back has had a meteoric rise. 2021 has been an exceptional year for Hincapié. He made the step up to Europe and made his national team debut. He immediately became a first-team regular. For Ecuador he has already collected more than 20 caps and is tipped to be among the protagonists of the World Cup in Qatar, which could help him take another big step in his career. Arsenal is already on his trail and this year’s final tournament could make him a real star.

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