Can Ecuador spring a surprise at the World Cup? Brighton star Moises Caicedo is key – predicted line-up and stats

THE South American side will face the hosts in the opening game on November 20th.

When the match kicks off at 7pm UK time, the Ecuadorians will have a rare challenge: being one of the few teams to play a game that is not on a neutral field.

In theory, the Netherlands and Ecuador are stronger teams than Qatar and Senegal, but home teams can be hard to predict and become the surprise of any short tournament.

Ecuador is set to fight for 2nd place in the group behind the Dutch and the opening game could be crucial to define the final position of the South Americans in the group after the third round.

Predicted starting XI

Ecuador usually play in a 4-3-3 formation that can change occasionally to a 4-2-3-1. One of their greatest strengths is the stability of their team tactically.

Ecuador favour a 4-3-3 formation

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The players know what to expect when substitutions happen, and the team makes the most of their key player, Moisés Caicedo of Brighton & Hove Albion.

The midfielder contributes to the team with the good defensive skills that we see in the Premier League, which allows the other players to attack intensively.

He is also talented enough to contribute in the final third when needed. 

Another Premier League player is Pervis Estupiñan, expected to be their regular left-back. A potentially different starting XI in the first game could include Sarmiento, who plays in the national team as an attacking midfielder – if they opt to go 4-2-3-1 against Qatar.

In case they play with three midfielders, another name that has been linked with a potential transfer to Brighton, Cifuentes, is expected to be a starter.

Attacking phase

Ecuador focuses a lot on the attacking phase, with players like Gonzalo Plata, Moises Caicedo, Pervis Estupiñán and more being crucial to the team. 

The team places a lot on attacking through the wings, as we can see below.

Ecuador often base their attacks down the flanks

The organisation of the team is also a big strength: the Argentine manager Gustavo Alfaro is a popular name in the continent due to his great work with Ecuador during the South American qualification for the World Cup

Cross-field passes to the left wing are crucial to Ecuador’s attacking threat

The young team has a lot of intensity, looking to attack throughout the game.

During a game Ecuador attack consistently with a lot intensity

Ecuador also has key players from the Premier League and Bundesliga, which means there’s top talent in all areas of the pitch.

Ecuador’s youthful team like to burst into the box

Defensive phase

As mentioned, their key player Moisés Caicedo – and he is vital during the defensive phase. He’s there to recover the ball and start the attack.

Caicedo is their key player for many reasons, he contributes with defensive actions in a way that allows other teammates to attack more.

Moises Caicedo (highlighted) is key to Ecuador’s defensive phase

On some occasions, they may form a 4-4-2 to provide more protection for the full-backs.

Ecuador will often shift to a 4-4-2 formation while playing


The youth and quality of Ecuador makes them a dangerous team when making fast transitions and creating counterattacks.


The Ecuadorians have well-known names in this area. Brighton’s Pervis Estupiñán is one of the most important players of this Ecuadorian team, mostly in the attacking phase.

Bayern Leverkusen’s Hincapié is also a strong option at the back. Not all teams in the World Cup have defenders in the Premier League and Bundesliga, so that could make a difference.


They have a Bundesliga player here too in Carlos Gruezo. The 27-year-old midfielder from Augsburg has a great understanding of this position, and he tactically knows to perfection how Ecuador likes to play.

Patrickson Delgado could be an interesting name to keep an eye on, providing depth in the centre of the pitch. 

As we’ve said – Moisés Caicedo is the key player in the team.

In summary, they have some of their best talent in the area of the field.


Their team has some experience in the attack, with former Inter player Felipe Caicedo. Normally, Enner Valencia comes off the bench to play as a striker or on the left wing too.

Wingers provide speed and also ball-control as they usually play inverted thanks to the threat that full-backs provide to the team. Gonzalo Plata on the right and Rommel Ibarra on the left could be the regular starters, but Jeremy Sarmiento could also play on the wing as well as a 10, plus they have the experienced Ángel Mena.

Key player

Brighton’s Moises Caicedo will be their star man

Thinking of Gustavo Alfaro’s squad, line per line and position per position, in the end it was an easy choice having Moisés Caicedo as the key player – given we’ve mentioned him time and time again.

It’s important to have in mind some facts that explain why Caicedo is Ecuador’s key player.

This is a player that competes in the Premier League. The midfielder has numbers close to the league average. And that is very important to have in mind: we’re talking about the Premier League and the midfield of the Premier League.

The player has numbers that are well-distributed too. He contributes with defensive action as well as during the attacking moments, and he is helpful during the transition between those moments with good passing stat.

Tournament prediction

The South Americans have a team with a few players active in top leagues like the Premier League and Bundesliga. The team also has players in intermediate and developing leagues like the MLS and the Liga MX (Mexican League), as well as their domestic league.

Their key player has plenty of big club interest – and this tournament could be a big platform for him to secure a massive move.

It’s hard to say the Ecuadorians are favourites against the hosts Qatar in the opening game because the performance of home teams can be hard to predict, but they surely have what it takes to fight for a spot in the Round of 16. If they get through, they could be a team to avoid in the next round.

For even more detailed analysis of all 32 teams in the FIFA World Cup 2022, download your copy of the November Total Football Analysis magazine here

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