Ecuador World Cup 2014: Team Guide for FIFA Tournament
It is easy to overlook Ecuador when running the rule over South America's 2014 World Cup challengers. The solid, physical side enjoyed an excellent qualifying campaign—but without a Neymar, a Lionel Messi, a Luis Suarez or a Radamel Falcao, the Tricolor do not have a player of the highest profile to draw attention to their success.
But nobody should underestimate Reinaldo Rueda's team when they kick off in Brazil. Their squad may not be made up of household names, but there is plenty of talent around and, more importantly, the experience and team unity which comes from playing with a settled team for the last four years.
Making their third appearance at a World Cup tournament, Ecuador will not be intimidated by any challenge.
Road to the Finals
Ecuador's World Cup qualifying campaign was built on one great virtue. At home in Quito, the Tricolor were unbeatable, and that form carried them through to an automatic spot in South America, finishing ahead of Uruguay in fourth by virtue of goal difference.
Making the most of the difficult conditions in the capital, just under 10,000 feet above sea level, Ecuador picked up an incredible 22 of 24 points in the Estadio Atahualpa. A 1-1 draw to top-placed Argentina represented the only time the nation dropped points as hosts.
Away, meanwhile, things were not so straightforward. Just three points were taken away from Quito, and that form will have to improve if the Tricolor wish to make an impact at the World Cup.
Goalkeepers: Maximo Banguera (Barcelona, Ecuador), Adrian Bone (El Nacional), Alexander Dominguez (Liga de Quito)
Defenders: Gabriel Achilier (Emelec), Walter Ayovi (Pachuca), Oscar Bagui (Emelec), Frickson Erazo (Flamengo), Jorge Guagua (Emelec), John Narvaez (Emelec), Juan Carlos Paredes (Barcelona, Ecuador), Cristian Ramirez (Fortuna Duesseldorf)
Midfielders: Michael Arroyo (Atlante), Segundo Castillo (Al Hilal), Carlos Gruezo (Stuttgart), Renato Ibarra (Vitesse Arnhem), Fidel Martinez (Tijuana), Edison Mendez (Santa Fe), Oswaldo Minda (Chivas USA), Christian Noboa (Dynamo Moscow), Pedro Quinonez (Emelec), Luis Saritama (Barcelona, Ecuador), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
Forwards: Jaime Ayovi (Tijuana), Felipe Caicedo (Al-Jazira), Angel Mena (Emelec), Jefferson Montero (Morelia), Cristian Penilla (Barcelona, Ecuador), Joao Rojas (Cruz Azul), Enner Valencia (Pachuca), Armando Wila (Universidad Catolica)
Squad courtesy of FourFourTwo.
Ecuador boss Reinaldo Rueda certainly does not lack experience on the bench. The 57-year-old is regarded as one of the top coaches in his native Colombia, coaching local giants Deportivo Cali and Medellin as well as the Cafetero national team and leading Honduras in the 2010 World Cup.
With four years on the job, Rueda is the second-longest-serving coach in South America behind Oscar Tabarez, whipping Ecuador into shape after a disastrous Copa America campaign in 2011.
His discipline and no-nonsense style have worked wonders for the nation, installing a direct tactical philosophy that make Ecuador a tough prospect to beat.
One to Watch
Jefferson Montero's career in Europe has been underwhelming at best so far. An impressive World Cup, however, could help the dynamic Ecuador winger have a second shot across the Atlantic, where he last featured during an undistinguished three years at Villarreal which included loan spells with Betis and Levante.
The 24-year-old covers the opposite flank to Antonio Valencia to give Ecuador frightening pace and potency out wide, but he can also play more centrally in midfield as a playmaker or even further forward as a second striker. His speed is one of his best weapons, but equally damaging is his dribbling skill, used to leave defenders looking foolish.
Montero is currently starring in Mexico with Morelia, whom he led to the 2013 Copa Mexico title. His performances will be key for a Tricolor side short of real creative talent, and the World Cup could be the perfect opportunity to boost his career even further.
For a team that loves to play rapidly, punching holes in the opposition through use of the counter-attack, it cannot hurt to have the quickest player in world football on your side. A FIFA survey held in 2013 (per FTBPro) singled that man out as Antonio Valencia, Ecuador's wing sensation and biggest footballing superstar.
A veteran of the Tricolor's last World Cup campaign in 2006, Valencia has become indispensable to the team's efforts, hurtling up and down the right flank and providing centre-forward Felipe Caicedo with ammunition in the box.
But the Manchester United player has more personal motives for succeeding in Brazil as well. Last year he suffered the heartbreak of losing international team-mate and close friend Christian "Chucho" Benitez, and Brazil 2014 will be an emotional ride for Valencia and the entire Ecuador squad.
World Cup Record
|World Cup Appearances||2|
|Most appearances||Edison Mendez, Ulises de la Cruz (7)|
|Most goals||Agustin Delgado (3)|
|Most goals in match||Various players (1)|
Group E fixtures:
Ecuador vs. Switzerland, June 15 (Estadio Mane Garrincha, Brasilia).
Ecuador vs. Honduras, June 20 (Arena da Baixada, Curitiba).
Ecuador vs. France, June 25 (Estadio Maracana, Rio de Janeiro).