Ecuador will have to overcome some opening-night nerves when they play hosts Qatar in the first match of the World Cup on Sunday, but forward Angel Mena is confident they can handle the pressure of the occasion.
Ecuador finished fourth in South American qualifying behind Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay to reach the World Cup finals for only the fourth time after missing out on Russia 2018 and Mena backed the team to give its best in Qatar.
“One of the keys will be the conviction we have to face this match,” Mena, whose side also take on the Netherlands and Senegal in Group A, told reporters.
“We shouldn’t change anything that we have shown during the qualifiers, we’ve become a solid team offensively.
“We’re focused on doing our best, we can handle the demands of this type of match. We’re obviously anxious because it’s the first game, but we’re aware of what we are playing for.”
Midfielder Carlos Gruezo said Qatar were likely to feel more pressure in front of its home fans. “We need to do things well and not think so much about them,” he added.
Ecuador’s forwards have failed to fire in recent warm-up games, with the team scoring only two goals in six matches, but Mena said that had not dented its confidence.
“It’s obvious we haven’t scored goals in the last few games, but we have a lot of optimism and confidence in the players who are here,” the 34-year-old added.
“We’re convinced that it will be a great World Cup and that everyone will fulfil their expectations... We’re very convinced there are going to be a lot of goals.”