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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Ecuador will profit from experience
Raul Guerron (left) and Jose Cevallos are dismayed by Gerardo Torrado's winning goal for Mexico
Raul Guerron (left) and Jose Cevallos are dismayed by Gerardo Torrado's winning goal for Mexico
BBC Sport Online's Tim Vickery

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Ecuador coach Hernan Dario Gomez made an interesting comment after his side¿s 2-1 defeat to Mexico.

South Korea, he pointed out, have appeared in every World Cup since 1986, and only now chalked up their first victory. And, he might have added, with home advantage.

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Ecuador have looked in this World Cup exactly what they are - a team who only this year played their first full match in Europe
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His side, meanwhile, are back in the early stages of development.

Gomez said that for long periods of the game on Sunday his team performed like novices.

Ecuador have looked in this World Cup exactly what they are - a team who only this year played their first full match in Europe.

Their experience is limited to their home region. Ecuador are playing South American football, not mature international football, and no amount of preparation this year has been enough to get them ready for the real thing.

They have found it hard to make the step up in two senses, physically and psychologically.

In South America the referees are far less tolerant of physical contact. Collisions often result in free kicks which would not be given elsewhere.

Several times in both their opening games the Ecuador team have been amazed and outraged when a foul has not been given in their favour. The lenient interpretation of the rules has made it harder for them to keep the ball.

The players seen confused, and have lashed out with some ugly tackles of their own.

Their mental approach has also been found wanting. In their opening game, Italy sensibly chose not to let Ecuador ease their way into the World Cup.

Two quick goals left the South Americans shell-shocked. While they had plenty of the ball for the rest of the game, they accepted they were second best and rarely looked like scoring.

Against Italy they had possession but no penetration. Against Mexico they struggled even to have possession.

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A resounding win over Croatia together with a Mexican victory against Italy would take them through to the knock-out stages
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Ecuador scored with their first attack. It gave them a lead which they were immediately terrified of losing.

They were on the back foot before they had even settled into the game. The "what we have we hold" approach left the strikers ludicrously isolated, and before too long they were left holding nothing except the prospect of another defeat.

Ecuador were alarmingly passive, and only began to show what they can do in the last few minutes when they were already 2-1 down.

They still have a mathematical chance of making the second round. A resounding win over Croatia together with a Mexican victory against Italy would take them through to the knock-out stages.

But it is not very likely. And Ecuador's priority at this stage should be to bow out of the competition with dignity.

The pressure is off now, and the nerves are all out of the system. Their aim against Croatia should be clear: to show that their progress will be maintained and, if this World Cup has come a bit too early, they will be back and better for the next one.


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ECUADOR V CROATIA
GROUP G
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MEXICO 3 +2 7
ITALY 3 +1 4
CROATIA 3 -1 3
ECUADOR 3 -2 3

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