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We?re going to make history: Cruz

Germany will be under pressure and will want to steamroll in the first 20 minutes to take the lead, says the Ecuadorian defender.

india Updated: May 12, 2006 23:34 IST

Ulises De la Cruz was the best Ecuadorian player at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, and this year in Germany he is already emerging as the clear leader of a team taking part in the World Cup for the second time and is determined to "make history". "If Ecuador advances to the second stage it'll be historic, I've always wanted to make history," the footballer who plays for Aston Villa said in an interview.

Ecuador will be playing in Group A with Poland, Costa Rica and Germany. He regards the Germans as the toughest opponents, and though expects the referees "to help" Germany, is not afraid. "Since we have played against Brazil and Argentina, competing against Germany is nothing special, it's the same, it all depends on what we can do," he says. De la Cruz stressed that the key element of Ecuador's strength is the mistakes of 2002 when they were eliminated in the first round. "We won't be as nervous. Right from the first game we'll be tight, and take precautions," he said.

This is the second consecutive finals for you and Ecuador. What does it mean for both?

For me it is a great joy. When I was small I watched the World Cup on television and was a fan of Argentina. I never imagined that I would take part in the competition, myself. Many say that Ecuador qualifies due to its altitude, but I believe that the difference now is that there are people who play in Europe, like Agustin Delgado and Ivan Hurtado. This leads to a change in mentality. For the country, football is what has unified us. Both politics and investments have collapsed, but football has been such a support for the country that it has brushed problems aside.

From a sporting point of view, what should Ecuador expect at the World Cup?

Ever since I started to prepare mentally to play football for the national team I never wanted just to be a journeyman, I always wanted to make history: to beat teams we had never beaten, to qualify for the World Cup. At the last World Cup we had difficulties in analysing the opposition. Now, with more experience under our belts, we won't be as nervous. Right from the first game we have to be clinical.

What are the differences between the 2002 team in South Korea and Japan and that for Germany 2006?

There are not that many. What could change is that we have a bit more experience. There is a lot of press, a lot of photographers, and that made us nervous the last time. Now we know how to deal with that. I feel that the players all have greater expectations, they all want to perform well, to be signed up by European teams, to know that they have a better future. Poland, Costa Rica and Germany are your opponents in the first round.

How do you regard them?

Poland are not that good with the ball at their feet, but they are 1.80, 1.90 and even 2.00 metres tall. The set pieces are their strength, the throw-ins, the corner kicks. They try to take advantage of this, whereas we attempt to move the ball well, to play well within small spaces.

And Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is a team, which plays the way we do, with the ball on the ground, with skilful footballers who dribble. We know each other from games in the Copa America. Germany, as the hosts, will be under pressure, and will want to steamroll in the first 20 minutes to take the lead. If we can stand up to that pressure, it would be nice to see them also chasing after the ball. The referees are bound to help them. In contrast to Argentina or Brazil, there are few Ecuadorians playing in Europe.

What does an Ecuadorian have to do to be successful when he crosses the Atlantic?

Ecuadorians are very close to their families, their friends, and when they go abroad they want to be liked, to be understood. But when a club pays you, it expects results. If an Ecuadorian does not feel supported and sees that things are becoming difficult, like he isn't playing every week, he gives up. His self-esteem, his morale are not strong enough to say 'I am going to triumph here, come what may.

First Published: May 12, 2006 23:32 IST