Ecuador struggle to absorb 'hard blow' of World Cup exit

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group A - Ecuador v Senegal - Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar - November 29, 2022 Ecuador players look dejected after being eliminated from the World Cup REUTERS/Issei Kato

DOHA, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Ecuador's players collapsed in tears after failing to reach the World Cup knockout stage on Tuesday and their equally devastated coach acknowledged it was a bitter pill to swallow.

"I am in pain over this defeat. We all are," Gustavo Alfaro said after his young team lost 2-1 to Senegal in Group A to end third and out of the Qatar tournament.

"It is a hard blow. It is a big frustration that we are feeling. We knew that details could make all the difference and unfortunately that's what happened in this match."

Defeat was desperately frustrating for Ecuador after they had fought back to 1-1, but then conceded a sloppy goal minutes later to deny them the draw needed to reach the last 16, a feat they achieved only once in 2006.

Elimination was all the more painful given how close they came to beating the Netherlands in their second game which, after defeating Qatar, would have put them in the knockout stage even before Tuesday's game against the African champions.

"Unfortunately we made mistakes in the decisive match," Alfaro said, after watching his team concede a penalty to Senegal then switch off at the back for the second goal against.

"This leaves us with a bad feeling because we wanted to go through and stay on this road we had been following. The pain that we all feel right now, which Ecuador is feeling, is a huge pain.

"But we need to take into account the good performances we played and take that into the future. I am sure that these players will have revenge in the future."

Alfaro said he was disappointed with Ecuador's failure to keep the ball in midfield during the first half against Senegal but pleased with their reaction in the second.

"During the first half we were not ourselves. What I was telling my players was 'look, we need more possession in the middle of the pitch, we are chasing the ball all the time'. And that's something that Ecuador doesn't usually do," he said.

"I wish they would have played that way in the first half because they were excellent in the second half. Unfortunately we were knocked out of a beautiful dream that these guys were building in the last two years."

Asked about his own future as coach of Ecuador, Alfaro said it was too early to talk about that as he needed to both think and talk with his family.

Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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