Yesterday afternoon was pretty entertaining. Ecuador played Brazil in Quito in a qualifying match for the World Cup at 4 o'clock, and I think it's safe to say that the entire country was watching. My host family set up a TV in the hallway outside my room under the sun roof, and we all sat together watching, along with Casey and Lara, who were in Cuenca for the night.
You could see on the TV how crazy the crowd was, and everyone in the stadium was decked out in yellow, just like us at home. We didn't really expect too much because Brazil is such a good team that they didn't really need to try. As long as they didn't lose, it wouldn't be a loss for them. For Ecuador, however, it was a must-win or must-tie game.
Ecuador came out strong and owned the first half, but missed many opportunities to score. We talked about how well they were playing, but at the same time realized that Brazil was just going with the flow. They weren't attacking the ball and were basically just playing defense. Even with the little effort, you could see just how talented they were. Their bench players are the stars on their respective club teams.
After half time we expected the tempo of the game to change, and for a while it did. Brazil came out looking to score in the second half, and they played well, but Ecuador was still in control of the ball for most of the game. But as long as they didn't let up a goal, Brazil was fine with it. They had nothing to prove. Eventually Brazil took out their star player, Ronaldinho, since there was no sense in risking injury. But almost as soon as his replacement came in, the new player scored a goal on Ecuador.
The score was 1-0 and you could sense the deflation in the stadium, maybe over the whole country. There were only 15 minutes or so left but Ecuador continued to attack the ball as Brazil started to hang back and just play defense. With more and more opportunities wasted, it looked as though the game was over, as well as any serious chances for the World Cup for Ecuador. But with 2 minutes or so left Ecuador suddenly scored a goal, tying the game at 1-1. The house, the stadium, and I assume the rest of the country erupted.
With the game almost over, the team had a couple more chances at scoring the go-ahead goal, but couldn't close the deal. Yet the fact that they tied wasn't a total loss, because tying to one of the worlds best teams isn't all that bad. And they still gained some points for it. They're far down the chart, but there is another qualifying game on Wednesday against Paraguay, and I'm nearly certain that classes will be canceled. Or at the very least, no one will show up and I will cancel class after 5 minutes and rush home to watch the game.
It's exciting to watch these games even though I've never rooted for Ecuador. But it's funny to notice how I unintentionally start talking about the national team in the first person, which might be something unique to where I come from. But instead of saying, "Ecuador is playing Paraguay on Wednesday," I hear myself saying, "We're playing Paraguay on Wednesday." I guess I'm a part of the team now too.
It would be nice for the team to make the World Cup, but I guess if that falls through I've always got Argentina or the U.S. to root for.