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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
Ecuador reflect on reality
Ecuador team huddle
Ecuador have found their World Cup debut a challenging experience

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The people of Ecuador are doing their best to accentuate the positives from a painful World Cup learning experience.

The feeling of gloom across the South American country after losing 2-1 to Mexico is reflected in Monday's headline in the daily El Mercurio newspaper.

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We lost because we are newcomers - we are a team without history, and this fact has taken its toll
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Hernan Dario Gomez

"Ecuador is in a coma," the paper wrote.

Supporters across Ecuador and beyond were delighted when Augustin Delgado scored their first ever World Cup goal, putting his side ahead in the fifth minute on Sunday.

But the joy was to last only a few minutes, thanks to Jared Borguetti's equaliser and Gerardo Torrado's winner.

There was silence in Quito on the final whistle, punctuated only by a few tears and insults.

Now Ecuadoreans are hoping to salvage some pride from the match against Croatia on Thursday.

After two defeats in their first two games of the finals, Ecuador are all but out.

A lack of experience has proved costly for Ecuador
A lack of experience has proved costly for Ecuador

They still have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the second round, should Mexico beat Italy and they beat the Coats by enough goals.

But South American football pundits are clear that such a "miracle" is most unlikely.

Coach Hernan Gomez and his players admit that their lack of experience on the biggest stage has caught up with them.

"We lacked character against Mexico, especially on midfield," Gomez said after the match.

And the papers are in full agreement.

El Comercio writes that, after a promising start, Ecuador dropped too deep and "inexplicably allowed Mexico to take the initiative".

The Guayaquil daily also says the midfield, which was Ecuador's strongest point during qualification, once again proved to be the team's weakest link in the finals, as it had happened against Italy.

El Universo writes that Ecuador have shown that they don't yet have the stature to play in World Cup finals, and the defeat by Italy was not enough to teach the players the necessary lessons.

Coach Hector Gomez said: "We lost because we are newcomers. We are a team without history, and this fact has taken its toll."


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GROUP G
  P GD PTS
MEXICO 3 +2 7
ITALY 3 +1 4
CROATIA 3 -1 3
ECUADOR 3 -2 3

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