When Germany and Ecuador meet on Wednesday afternoon, two of the top 10 teams in FIFA's rankings (Germany is currently No. 2, while Ecuador is No. 10) will do battle. However, this friendly will mean very different things for the two countries.
For Germany, this is the first game in a U.S. tour and a chance for several younger players to make their mark. For Ecuador, this game is more like a warm-up for the team with big World Cup qualifiers against Peru (June 7) and Argentina (June 11) on deck.
Any way you look at it, this is an intriguing matchup between two very strong countries. Let's break down this international friendly.
When: Wednesday, May 29 at 2:30 p.m. ET
Where: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida
What They're Saying
Germany hasn't brought its "A-team" to the United States, so the German team you will see on Wednesday won't be its strongest unit.
Katrina Gawel of The Miami Herald has more on the German squad that made the trip:
Because of the Champions League final match between Dortmund and Bayern Munich that fell on Saturday—which Bayern won 2-1—Löw called up his B-team which he calls “the new generation of German football.”
Some of these players aren’t even old enough to legally drink in the United States, yet they have been called up by one of the most historic soccer teams in the world. Joining the team is Julian Draxler, the 19-year star midfielder from Schalke 04, who just signed a $45million euro contract extension.
Though the B-team will make up most of the players on the pitch on Wednesday, there are some familiar faces: Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker have tagged along, as well as Hamburg’s Rene Adler and Schalke 04’s Benedikt Höwedes.
“The big guys always bring positivity and guidance to the team,” Löw said. “I’m very pleased with all of my players right now.”
Germany Player to Watch: Max Kruse
With many of Germany's top players skipping this American tour, a few new faces will get a chance to prove themselves with the international squad.
One such man is 20-year-old Kruse, a who scored 12 goals and added 10 assists this season for SC Freiburg. A speedy and technically sound forward, Kruse can play in several positions and will likely play as a the striker against Ecuador.
This will be his first international appearance for Germany, so keep a close eye on Kruse—he'll be looking to make a lasting impression.
Ecuador Player to Watch: Antonio Valencia
He may have had a bit of a down year Manchester United this season, but Valencia is still a speedy, crafty winger who can beat a defender and set up his teammates on the attack.
His six assists for the club this year are a far cry from his performance in 2011-12, when he set up an impressive 15 goals for his Red Devils teammates. If there is one player for this Ecuador squad capable of taking over the game and really giving the German defenders headaches, it's Valencia.
Also keep an eye on striker Christian Benitez, who has scored 18 goals and added six assists in 25 games for Club America this season. He's a dangerous striker and the top poacher in the Liga MX this season.
Which team wins?
Ecuador is a better team than they get credit for and they'll bring a strong squad into this game. While the German program is very deep, I think the Ecuadorians are going to surprise some folks in this game. Valencia is a top talent even if he's off his form this year, while Benitez has the talent to play in Europe again.
I see Ecuador winning this one, 1-0.