In a true clash of contrasting styles, Group A rivals Ecuador and Poland go head-to-head in Gelsenkirchen on the opening day of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. The match, scheduled for 21:00 CET on 9 June, could go a long way to deciding which of these sides makes it through to the last 16.
"Sixty per cent of our chances of going through to the next round rest on the Poland game," says Edison Mendez, one of nine members of the Ecuador squad also present at Korea/Japan 2002. His age and experience mean that Mendez enjoys a privileged position between the squad's old guard - Agustin Delgado, Ivan Hurtado and the like - and the new generation of players, which includes bright young talents Luis Valencia and Cristian Lara. Poland, meanwhile, have assembled a balanced squad packed with top quality footballers which coach Pawel Janas has moulded into a formidable unit. With the likes of Artur Boruc, Jacek Bak, Jacek Krzynowek and Maciej Zurawski making up the spine of the team, the Poles' direct playing style makes them a difficult proposition for any side.
How they qualified
Ecuador sealed their qualification on 8 October 2005 following a 0-0 draw with Uruguay at home in Quito in the penultimate round of South American qualifying. The Ecuadorians finished third in the table, behind continental superpowers Brazil and Argentina. Poland earned their ticket for this summer's tournament by finishing as one of the European Zone's best second-placed teams. Drawn in Group 6, the Poles gave eventual group winners England a real run for their money, sealing their spot in Germany last September with a victory over Wales.
The two sides have met just once, in a friendly match held on 13 November last year in Barcelona, Spain. Goals from Tomasz Klos, Euzebiusz Smolarek and Sebastian Mila lifted Poland to a resounding 3-0 win.
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