After suffering an unfortunate defeat to Brazil in their final Copa America group game, Ecuador will head home with their heads hung in shame. Going into the tournament, they were expecting something big, something great.
Indeed, for the first time in years, things were looking promising for the South American underachievers. Although they were drawn in a tough group with the likes of Brazil and Paraguay, they were boosted by the presence of players like Antonio Valencia and Chucho Benitez among their ranks.
Their first game was a more than acceptable scoreless draw with big guns Paraguay, however the letdown of losing star player Antonio Valencia was followed by a shocking 1-0 defeat to Venezuela, which meant that Ecuador would have to beat Brazil if they had any hopes of qualifying for the next round.
The odds were against them, but Ecuador went into their final group game with hopes high and their expectation aided by Brazil's poor showings. Things didn't go according to plan, though, and Ecuador's defense was run over by a rampant Brazil squad, who showed their title credentials with attack after attack and a number of promising plays.
Ecuador had their fair share of opportunities up front too, though, and the one glimmer of hope was 22-year-old striker Felipe Caicedo. In what was an eventual 4-2 loss, Caicedo scored two brilliant individual goals and kept his team in the match until late on, when the Brazilians finally pulled away.
His first goal was a low, hard shot that fizzed past goalkeeper Julio Cesar and tied things up a 1-1. The second was another equalizer, this time another low and well placed shot to draw it all up at 2-2. However the cream eventually raised to the top, and Brazil would score twice more for a 4-2 victory.
"We’re heading for home with a really bitter taste in our mouths,” Caicedo said, but Ecuador fans can take some respite from the strikers performances. He looks a very promising talent and still has plenty of years to come for his national team.
In fact, if his performances at the Copa America weren't promising enough, then you have to look no further than his last season in La Liga. Caicedo played for Spanish minnows Levante, and scored a total of 13 goals in 27 games, helping keep the side in the first division and picking up many rave reviews as well.
Others weren't so kind to the Ecuadorian though, many dubbing him "plain", "average", and "not good enough". Indeed the player who is still only 22 has had high expectations during his career, and he may just be starting to live up to them.
It all started during Caicedo's first footballing years at Swiss club FC Basel. At the time, Caicedo was only 17 years old, but he looked a promising prospect, and clubs from the Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A began to monitor the player closely.
He would eventually sign for up and coming Premier League club Manchester City for a reported £7 million, and was described by club officials as, "One of the great South American talents," even drawing comparisons to Brazilian striker Adriano.
In his first season, regular minutes were hard to come by for Caicedo, and he ended the season with 10 substitute appearances and no goals. However, the next season started auspiciously, with Caicedo scoring in consecutive games played off the bench.
This merited his first start for the club, and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands, scoring a brace against Hull City in an eventual 5-1 win. As the season progressed, Caicedo was given more starting opportunities, and finished the campaign with five goals in 17 matches (10 starts) as well as three goals in five UEFA Cup games.
The fans were impressed with Felipe Caicedo's performances and many were calling for him to have a more solid place in the first team, but the following summer saw many new strikers arrive at Eastlands, including Roque Santa Cruz, Carlos Tevez, and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Many were expecting the Ecuadorian to leave in order to regular playing time, and he secured a loan move to Sporting Lisbon in Portugal, but was given scarce playing time and returned in January 2010, before quickly being shipped out to La Liga side Malaga.
There, Caicedo gained regular minutes, something he had struggled for in the past, and showed promise with four goals and two assists in 18 appearances. The season of 2009-10 was something of a success for him in Spain, and Manchester City decided to loan him out again to newly-promoted Spanish side Levante for 2010-11. It would be a breakout season for Caicedo in Spain, where the now 22-year-old managed 13 goals and two assists in 27 appearances.
This earned Caicedo his place in Ecuador's Copa America squad, and the player had high hopes for his nation, but after the disappointment of elimination, he will return to Spanish club Levante, who recently exercised the clause in their loan deal to obtain full rights to the striker for only £880,000.
Now however, it appears that Caicedo is on his way to Russia to join Lokomotiv Moscow for around £8.8 million, approximately 10 times more than Manchester City sold him for. While this is a tidy piece of business by Levante, the question that must be asked is does Felipe Caicedo deserve to play for a better club.
Although he's not much of a star, Caicedo did prove that he can be successful in both Spain and England, and it's a wonder that no clubs from the two countries have expressed an interest in him.
His main attribute is his physical strength and ability to hold the ball up well. However, Caicedo has shown impressive dribbling skills and pace for a player of his stature. Felipe Caicedo is also extremely powerful and has a wicked shot on him, not to mention the player has one of the best shot to goal ratios in all of Europe.
Caicedo himself was quoted saying, "My dream is to play in Italy with Milan. I have many friends at the club like Robinho and Kevin Prince Boateng. Inter are another team I would also like to join one day." This seems like a bit of a long shot, and he has a long way to go before he is even close to being considered one of Europe's best strikers, but Felipe Caicedo has all the right ingredients to do so.
Now he just needs the right club and the right grooming, and while Russia may not be the biggest stage in the world, you can expect to hear the name Felipe Caicedo again, perhaps sooner than later.