GROUP E
Ecuador

THE 60-SECOND OVERVIEW

The Tricolor qualified on goal difference, and the last year has been particularly disappointing for a team that can’t figure out how to play games away from Quito and its oxygen-starved 2,500m altitude.

The squad isn’t happy with the decision to stay in Viamao, in south Brazil, which will be a tad on the nippy side, and poor form at club level is another major concern for manager Reinaldo Rueda. Captain Antonio Valencia aside, much of his squad are performing in small non-European leagues like China or Saudi Arabia, and lack real competition. Brazil will be a true test.

THE DREAM

To do Chucho proud. Every goal will be dedicated to the late Christian Benitez: since his sudden death last year, his name has become an inspiration for team-mates and Ecuadorians in general.

When it appeared that their post-shock slump in form might leave them without World Cup qualification, the squad fought back. “That’s the inner energy that keeps us going – we think that Chucho will help us from heaven,” explains Christian Noboa. The draw has left them optimistic, too: their first game against Switzerland is a potential group decider.

THE NIGHTMARE

Losing their “derby”. While everyone is concentrating on trying to surprise the two Europeans sides in the group, the second game against Honduras could be a banana skin. They’re managed by Luis Fernando Suarez, who took Ecuador to Germany 2006, where they played with real heart.

Suarez is still missed by the fans, and if Ecuador fail to beat Honduras, there will be repercussions: Rueda’s style is under scrutiny for being unambitious. It would be an appalling scenario for a team that was hoping to take advantage of the South American setting to be scuppered by fellow South Americans.

THE STATS
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PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

BE COMPARED TO NEYMAR: FIDEL MARTINEZ

He physically resembles the Brazilian and even has the same slick haircut, adopted while playing for Cruzeiro in 2009. “Many people call me the Ecuadorian Neymar”, he claims – but he’s a bit behind, football-wise.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

FALL OUT WITH THE COACH: FELIPE CAICEDO

The striker has suffered heavy criticism from Rueda, who publicly called him “childish and ungrateful”, and often repeats that Ecuador lack a “classy centre-forward”. So much for giving the squad confidence…

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

BE MISTAKEN FOR SOMEONE'S BROTHER: ENNER VALENCIA

Yes, he’s a winger. Yes, he’s really fast. Yes, he started playing for Caribe Junior and then moved to Emelec. But no, he’s not Antonio Valencia’s kid brother. Stop it!

DID YOU KNOW?

Colombian managers have become lucky charms for Ecuador. Hernan Dario Gomez took them to the 2002 World Cup, Luis Fernando Suarez to Germany 2006; now Reinaldo Rueda leads them to Brazil 2014.

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Outsiders who have yet to find consistency playing below the clouds, Ecuador will hope to beat Honduras; anything else is a bonus.