Despite Ecuador’s blistering start in the opener with Qatar, the South American side were knocked out following a loss and a draw in successive games with the Netherlands (1-1) and Senegal (1-2). However, Ecuador will be one of the more impressive teams to exit at the group stages. Overall, Sebas Méndez and especially Moisés Caicedo were a dynamic presence in midfield, despite being unsettled by Senegal’s intensity. Left-back Pervis Estupiñán, one of three Brighton players in the squad, again proved his quality at a high level as a dynamic presence on the flank while 20-year-old centre-back Bayer Leverkusen Piero Hincapié, despite one or two lapses in concentration, showed his reputation is more than just hype. Meanwhile, Gustavo Alfaro’s side did show enough in possession but their off-the-ball structure was arguably one of the best in the tournament throughout the group stages.
Best Player – Enner Valencia spearheaded the South American side in their first two games, despite struggling with injury, while extending his incredible World Cup goal record, now six goals in six career appearances at the tournament via three precise finishes in Qatar. Valencia’s goals didn’t just propel his side forward. At 33, they also showed that the striker, now playing in Turkey with Fenerbahçe, is still a relevant force in the European game.
Biggest Disappointment – Given the ease of their victory against the hosts and the fact that they outplayed the Netherlands, managing 15 shots to the Dutch side’s two, being overrun by Senegal at times and failing to make the last 16 given their some impressive collective and individual displays is a major disappointment. You could make a case for Alfaro’s team to have been marginally Group A’s best-performing side overall, making four points a disappointment.
GRADE: C – A frustratingly early exit but reputations of players, team and coach were enhanced.