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Matchday 14: Messi, Argentina in round of 16

Five Aside Jun 25, 2014
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Victory keeps Ecuador's dreams alive

Ecuador Jun 20, 2014
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How Ecuador can improve after loss

Ecuador Jun 15, 2014
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Jun 26, 2014

Assessment: Positives to take

Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda discusses his team's performance against France and the reality of not making it to the knockout round.

Ecuador have bowed out of the World Cup in the group stages, and ESPN FC blogger Nick Dorrington gives his verdict on the brighter points of the campaign as well as what went wrong.

One sentence, World Cup recap

Lots of promise, but mistakes at key junctures and a lack of end product doomed them to an early elimination.

All team assessments

Group Stage: Australia | Bosnia-Herzegovina | Cameroon | Croatia | Ecuador | England | Ghana | Honduras | Italy | Iran
Ivory Coast Japan | Portugal | Russia | South Korea | Spain
Round of 16: Algeria | Chile | Greece | Mexico
Nigeria | Switzerland | Uruguay | United States
Quarterfinals: Colombia | France | Belgium | Costa Rica
Semifinals: Brazil | Netherlands
Finalists: Argentina
Winners: Germany

Star Man

Enner Valencia was undoubtedly the star of Ecuador's tournament. Reinaldo Rueda was derided when he first called up the then-Emelec winger as a solution to the national team's goal-scoring woes following the tragic death of Christian Benitez. Valencia's brief spell up front in an away defeat to Colombia last September suggested the naysayers could be right.

However, he grew into the role after that, performing strongly at international and club level. He came into the World Cup after an excellent first season in Mexico with Pachuca and gave a superb account of himself, scoring three goals in Ecuador's first two matches. Elements of his game remain a little raw, but a move to Europe now beckons.

Highlights

Enner Valencia's early goal against Switzerland seemed to promise so much for Ecuador's tournament. Edison Mendez coming off the bench against Honduras to become the first Ecuadorian to play in three World Cups was another great moment, and the camaraderie and determination to perform well in honour of Christian Benitez showed.

Finally, the unwavering optimism of the travelling supporters, who continued to chant "yes we can, yes we can," well into injury time of the final match against France.

Enner Valencia made a name for himself at this summer's World Cup.

Low Points

Switzerland's last-minute winner in the opening match of the group was a bitter blow, particularly as it came just moments after Ecuador had fashioned an excellent chance at the other end of the pitch for themselves. Their subsequent results would have been sufficient to qualify, had they just taken a point from that match.

Antonio Valencia's red card against France -- for a poor, over the ball tackle -- was a fitting end to a poor tournament for the Manchester United winger. It also effectively ended his side's chances of securing an improbable victory and qualification for the next round.

Lessons Learned

In a tournament in which most of the successful sides have played on the front foot, Ecuador's reactive style was decidedly dated. Rueda's approach was, of course, conditioned to the players available to him. However, Ecuador often looked like a broken team, with midfielder Christian Noboa given sole responsibility for connecting the deep-lying defensive block to the wingers and forwards further upfield.

Reports suggest that Rueda will shortly be offered a four-year extension to his contract. If so, he will be tasked with constructing a more cohesive and modern tactical approach in the build-up to next year's Copa America in Chile.