Brazil travelled to their first World Cup qualifier in Quito worried about the altitude, the pitch and the heat.
Perhaps they should have been more concerned about striker Ivan Kaviedes, whose outstanding performance tipped the match in Ecuador’s favour.
The Valladolid player had already struck the bar with a deft lob when, early in the second half, he danced through the Brazilian defence to set up Agustin Delgado for the only goal.
Kaviedes’ international journey started in a friendly against Brazil in October 1998. At the time he was the sensation of Ecuador, on his way to a record 43 goals in one season for Emelec.
The 5-1 drubbing was a harsh welcome to the big time, and he was soon mixing with the best on a weekly basis when Perugia made him the first Ecuadorian to appear in Italy’s Serie A. He made an instant impression, but soon moved on to Celta Vigo in Spain after Perugia’s veteran coach, Vujadin Boskov, began to believe that, too often, Kaviedes crossed the line between deceptively casual and plain casual.
Before long he was moving again, loaned to Puebla in Mexico. There he showed that, given the opportunity, the goals would flow, but after returning to Spain and Valladolid this season, he has once more struggled to score.
Kaviedes has had more fortune at international level. After starting the qualifying campaign in a queue behind Delgado, Ariel Graziani, Carlos Juarez and Eduardo Hurtado, Kaviedes forced his way in last October. Even so, coach Hernan Dario Gomez was still expressing worries about the 23-year-old ahead of the Brazil game five months later. “The fact that he’s not playing for his club is not good,” he said.
“However, I still have him in mind.” Afterwards there were no regrets. His selection was not such a gamble, whatever his coaches in Europe might think. Gifted with sublime touch, Kaviedes has gained in strength, making it easier for him to receive the ball with his back to goal and unleash his speciality, the shot on the turn. Such a move put Ecuador on the way to a win in Venezuela last November, his country’s first World Cup qualifying victory away from home since 1965.
Just as significant was that it was achieved without talismanic playmaker Alex Aguinaga, who was suspended. Spearheaded by Kaviedes, Ecuador showed why they might finally make it to the World Cup finals.
Club Valladolid (Spa)
Born October 24, 1977, in Santo Domingo
Previous clubs Emelec, Perugia (Ita), Celta Vigo (Spa), Puebla (Mex)
International debut October 1998, v Brazil
International caps 15 (3 goals)