Let's take a gander at South American minnows, Ecuador.
World Cup experience: Second trip. Knocked out in group of Korea/Japan in 2002.
Group: A -- Germany, Poland, Costa Rica
Odds: 12:1 win group, 221:1 win Cup.
World Rank: 38
How qualified: Tied for third in CONMEBOL (South America) qualifying.
Nickname: La Tri, (not to be confused with those guapos from south of the border, El Tri.)
Key Players: Agustin Delgado (F, SC Barcelona (Ecuador)); Giovany Espinoza (Center back, only player in all of South America to play in all 18 qualifiers); Edison Mendez (MF, Liga Deportiva Universitaria (Quito))
Choice honey: A bit of a reach, but we'll go with Christina Aguilera, under the pretense her father is of Ecuadorian descent. No word if the people of Ecuador are proud to call the autuer of "Dirrty" their own. (We do know US figure skate Johnny Weir would, consider he calls Christina, "his hero.")
Icon: Charles Darwin. Rumor has it he invented the corner kick from the poop deck of The Beagle. Plus he had a lot to say about the Galapagos Islands. Actually Alberto Spencer is the all-time leading scorer in the Copa Libertadores, playing for Penerol of Uruguay in the 1960s. He actually played for both Ecuador and Uruguay.
Tedious miscellania: Last three elected presidents have not finished their terams. None, howerever were named Jorge Logan. ... One of these ousted Presidents, Jamil Mahuad, tried to adopt the American greenback as currency. ... Olympic speed walking champ Jefferson Pérez is from Ecuador. ... Shaquilino favorite, "Proof of Life" was filmed in Ecuador. ... Early 90s tabloid hero, Lorena Bobbitt, yep, she honed her handiwork in Ecuador. ... Oddly enough, the voice of red blooded American Hank Hill, Mike Judge, was born in Guayaquil, the country's largest city. ... May 24 is a big day. It's the celebration of the Battle of Pichincha when Spanish forces were defeated by Simon Bolivar at the feet of a volcano. (Inspiring the epic conclusion to the Lord of the Rings at the foot of Mt. Doom.) ... We'd be remiss to say the country is named because the equator passes through it. ... For what it's worth Quito sister cities are: Louisville, Ky., St. Paul, Minn., and Coral Gables, Fla. ...
General notes: Interestingly enough, defeated both Brasil and the Argies once in qualifying, but and it's a big but. Both those wins came at home. In fact Ecuador went 8-6-4 in qualifying, but seven of its wins came in the high altitude encalve of Quito, nestled in the Andes mountains. (A slightly better home field than Invesco Field at Mile High, the Ecuadorians would have thrown human waste at Jerome Bettis in the AFC Championship Game.) ... If you like Spanish website, here's the official FEF site. ... Did beat Crotia 1-0 in their final 2002 Cup game. ...
Worth watching: Even a soccer-phile like myself would find it difficult to watch Ecuador vs. Poland from Gelsenkirchen on June 9, the first day of the tournament. Heavy drinking of "Polish" would need to be invovled.
Will they win a game?: Ecuador vs. Costa Rica, your Arizona Cardinals vs. San Franciso 49ers Week 17 game of the 2006 Cup.
Suppe Sez: Ecuador was conquered by an illiterate explorer called Francisco Pizarro, who used "140 foot soldiers and a few horse" to take down the tropical country in the 16th century. Many Incas were killed in the process. Rumor has it these guys were there doing most of the damage, in the form of a double clothesline off of the top rope.
Bottom line: No disrespect to Ecuador, but its a shame they're in the tournament and Uruguay isn't. But therein lies the beauty of the whole thing.
Roooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooney. England on deck.