World Cup 2014 Team-by-Team Guide: Ecuador must beat Swiss
Past tournaments: 2002, 2006
Previous Best: Round of 16 – Germany 2006
How they got here: Goal difference alone secured an automatic qualification spot for Ecuador at the expense of Uruguay – who were forced into a play-off with Jordan.
While they were solid at home – beating everyone bar Argentina – their away record will be a cause for concern in Brazil as Reinaldo Rueda’s men lost to all of the teams that finished above them in the group.
Star man: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
Ecuador’s is not a squad packed with big talents but Valencia is the stand out name on the list.
His displays at the 2006 World Cup earned him a move to the Premier League with Wigan and his impressive performances at the JJB Stadium saw him sold to Manchester United where he has been an ever present in starting XI ever since.
A winner of two league titles in England, Valencia boasts strength and pace in abundance and while he will never be thought of as a goal machine – with just nine in 68 international appearances – his ability to set up chances will be key to his country’s hopes in Brazil.
A reminder of how dangerous Valencia can be:
Under the radar: Felipe Caicedo (Al-Jazira)
He may be 25 but Caicedo is a well-travelled striker having plied his trade in the top flights of Belgium, England, Portugal, Spain, Russia and now Abu Dhabi.
After moving from Basel to Manchester City for £5.2m Caicedo failed to impress and was sent on loan to Sporting Lisbon, Malaga and finally Levante where he impressed with 13 goals from his 27 appearances.
He then failed to take to the Russian League, with just 11 strikes in 52 games for Lokomotiv Moscow, but has rediscovered his touch with three goals in his first six outings for Al-Jazira.
A total of 15 goals for his country – including seven from nine qualification games – single him out as one to watch.
Team nutcase: Christian Noboa (Dinamo Moscow)
Spurs fans will be familiar with the one-time Rubin Kazan midfielder after their Europa League clash with the Russians saw the midfielder throw around some questionable challenges and while he has calmed this season at Dinamo Moscow the 29–year-old can be ruled by a hot head.
A total of 19 yellow cards and two reds in his club career to date compliment the three yellows and one red he picked up in Ecuador’s qualifying campaign.
How will they get on?
With France seemingly guaranteed top spot in Group E and Honduras expected to be the whipping boys it’s a straight race between Ecuador and Switzerland for the runners-up spot. As such, much will hang on their tournament opener against the Swiss.
Win and they could go through, lose against the Swiss and it should be all over. However, with Argentina likely to be awaiting the runner-up their time in the knock-out phase would be short lived anyway.
To win the World Cup: 150/1
Best World Cup Bet: Caicedo top Ecuador goalscorer – 2/1
Watch all of Caicedo’s Manchester City goals – check out the cheeky back heel at number two:
How far do you think Ecuador can go at the World Cup? Tweet @JamesLCParry with your views now!
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £50 in free bets.