Both teams will have wanted to get their World Cup campaigns off to a winning start following the German’s win in the opening match earlier today. Poland started the match as favorites especially considering that 23 of Ecuador’s 28 qualifying points were earned on extremely high altitude, home soil although these points did include wins against Argentina and Brazil.
Both teams started nervously, neither side really wanting to take the initiative or the risk of conceding. Of the two, Ecuador started the brightest in attack as Poland seemed willing to sit their men behind the ball and attack on the break.
Very few chances in the opening 20 minutes meant there was a certain air of inevitability that the opening goal would come from a set piece. Perhaps the only surprise was that the 23rd minute opener was headed in by an Ecuadorian player. A long throw was headed into the box by Delgado and then subsequently headed into the back of the net by Tenorio.
With a deserved, if unexpected, swagger in their step Ecuador continued to press on while Poland were still reluctant to attack the ball or the opposition half. In fact Poland had yet to test the 26-year-old Costa Rican shot stopper thanks in part to the impressive back line but also thanks to the unimaginative attacking play by Poland.
Smolarek seemed to be the only Polish player willing to try and take the initiative but despite his best efforts to lift his side few chances fell the way of the lone striker Zurawski. In stark contrast, Ecuador continued to press and continued to threaten the Polish goal. Only in the last few minutes of the first half did Poland show any of the form that helped them qualify to this stage.
Zurawski did have a goal disallowed in the 52nd minute for being offside and replays suggest that the official made the wrong decision but that disallowed goal looked as though it may start a resurgence from the Poles.
Hurtado, the Ecuador captain, was replaced after going to ground heavily following a tough challenge. Despite prolonged periods of pressure and more encouraging play from Poland throughout the 2nd half they hadn’t had a single shot on target in 80 minutes. Despite that, it was still against the run of play when Delgado finished a well-worked goal in the 81st minute seemingly securing the victory. Interestingly, it also made Delgado the only Ecuadorian player to have scored more than one goal in the three World Cups that Ecuador have featured in.
In the 84th minute, Poland finally had their first shot on target but it was comfortably saved by Mora. They did, however, go on to hit the woodwork twice in the last five minutes but despite this and having a seemingly acceptable goal disallowed Poland never seemed threatening and Ecuador took their highest ever win from a World Cup match.
Poland may not have been expected to do much in this World Cup but they were expected to take 2nd spot in their group behind Germany, something that looks highly unlikely after today’s results. It does mean, however, that we’ve seen the first of the usual host of World Cup upsets.