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Thursday, 13 June, 2002, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK

Ecuador buoyed by historic win

The Ecuador camp was in joyous mood after ending their participation at their first World Cup finals with an historic first win.

The 1-0 victory against Croatia was not enough to prevent their elimination but coach Hernan Dario Gomez said the players should be proud of their achievements.

Despite finishing bottom of Group G, Gomez said the gap between Ecuador and more established footballing nations was closing.

" This team is writing history at the moment "
Dario Hernan Gomez

"Ecuador may be very far from Europe in terms of distance but I think the gap is closing in terms of football," said Gomez.

"This team is writing history at the moment. The goal against Mexico was a piece of history, our first-ever World Cup goal, and this win is another piece of history.

"It was important for Ecuador's future that we go back home with some dignity and we have achieved that."

Edison Mendez scored an impressive half-volleyed winner to stop Croatia qualifying for the next stage.

Gomez added: "Everybody was saying that we should make changes, including (Diego) Maradona.

"Well, I hope I made them happy as I changed around some of the positions.

"We worked very hard at retaining possession and keeping the ball from the Croatians. We had a plan and we stuck to it.

"You have to be good technically against European sides and we were today."

Mendez believes Ecuador finally did themselves justice after losses to Italy and Mexico.

"We showed how we really can play," he said. "Now we can return home with our heads held high.

"This our first time at the World Cup finals and I think we learnt a lot.

"As for my personal feelings about my goal, I'm speechless."

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