Ecuador are making a return to the World Cup for the first time since 2014 as the fourth-best qualified team from South America and they will have genuine hopes of getting through the group stage.
Brazil and Argentina aside, Ecuador were narrowly behind Uruguay in terms of the best-of-the-rest race and will head to Qatar to compete in just their fourth World Cup campaign.
Of all the top-seeded nations to draw, everyone will have wanted Qatar as they are an unknown quantity and Ecuador duly received the debutants.
Along with Senegal and the Netherlands, La Tricolor will be backing themselves to at least make the knockout stages for only the second time in their history.
They could gain early momentum by beating Qatar in their first game and they are priced at 6/1 to top Group A.
|When||20th November - 18th December 2022|
|How to watch||All matches will be shown on either the BBC or ITV|
|Odds||Brazil 9/2, England 11/2, France 6/1, Argentina 7/1, Spain 8/1|
Ecuador have played at three previous World Cups, making their tournament debut in 2002.
They exited Group G in 2002 after beating Croatia but losing to Italy and Mexico before enjoying their best-ever result in the 2006 World Cup in Germany by reaching the last-16.
Despite a 3-0 loss to the hosts, wins against Poland and Costa Rica saw them draw England in the knockout stages and only a David Beckham free-kick prevented them from advancing further.
In 2014 they suffered another group exit after a win, loss, and draw.
|Group stage||2002, 2014|
Four teams qualify automatically from South America and Ecuador took the last of those spots with seven wins, five draws and six losses.
They were particularly strong at home - a 2-1 loss to Peru was the only blot on their copybook - and they had enough to finish above recent World Cup participants in Peru, Colombia and Chile.
Away points were sparse, but Ecuador did enough to book their place in Qatar.
In three recent friendlies, they have shown their toughness at the back, beating Nigeria and Cape Verde 1-0, while drawing 0-0 with Mexico.
Ecuador play on the opening day of the tournament against Qatar, which is the ideal opportunity to come quickly out of the blocks against a side that has never played at a World Cup before.
That game is on 20th November and Ecuador can be backed at 6/5 to win with Qatar 9/4 and the draw available at 23/10.
They then face the Netherlands on 25th November before ending with a contest against Africa Cup of Nations winners Senegal - this could be the match that defines their campaign this winter.
Ecuador are currently managed by 60-year-old Argentinian Gustavo Alfaro and he has been in charge of the country since August 2020, winning 11 of 29 games in charge.
Even though he has been in management since 1992, the Ecuador job was the first international role he took on after managing a dozen clubs in Argentina as well as Al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia.
He has won domestic trophies with Arsenal de Sarandi and Boca Juniors and is taking that pedigree into the international game.
Michael Estrada was Ecuador's top scorer in their qualification campaign with six goals and he will hope to be the leading man for his country in Qatar.
He made his debut for Ecuador in 2017 and played in the MLS for Wayne Rooney's DC United on loan from Toluca in Mexico.
Former West Ham forward Enner Valencia captains the side and he is still going strong at the age of 32, currently playing in Turkey with Fenerbahce.
One youngster Ecuador can look to is winger Gonzalo Plata who has already won 28 caps for his country despite not being 22 until November.
He is a highly-rated, speedy winger who scored six goals in 30 games for Real Valladolid last season as they secured promotion to La Liga in Spain - and he duly did enough for them to warrant signing him on a permanent basis.
Plata scored three goals for his country in qualification and a strong tournament could see big clubs around Europe start circling.
Ecudaor predicted line-up (4-3-3): Alexander Dominguez; Angelo Preciado, Robert Arboleda, Piero Hincapie, Pervis Estupinan; Carlos Gruezo, Angel Mena, Moises Caicedo; Enner Valencia, Michael Estrada, Gonzalo Plata.
Ecuador tend to play, like a lot of modern teams, with just one focal point centre-forward and three midfielders, while they can also adapt between a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 formation.
They are defensively very tight with only Brazil and Argentina conceding fewer goals in qualifying, while recent friendly matches have further highlighted their defensive solidity.
Off the bench, striker Jordy Caicedo is an option having shone for CSKA Sofia in Bulgaria, while Brighton's Jeremy Sarmiento is another squad option who could potentially inject some extra impetus.
Getting through to the knockout stages will be on Ecuador's mind, particularly after being landed in a group with Qatar but, beyond that, it is difficult to see them challenging much further.
However, getting to the World Cup in the first place is a good sign of progress and making the last-16 for only the second time in their history will be a job well done for the South American outfit.
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