Ecuador

Population: 15.9 million

Area: 256,370 sq km

Capital: Quito

Currency: US Dollar

Federation: Ecuadorian Football Federation founded in 1925 and affiliated to Fifa in 1926

Registered players: 31,000

Kit colours: Yellow shirt, blue shorts and red socks

Team nickname: La Tri (Tri-Colour)

World Cup record: Second round (2006), first round (2002)

Copa America: 4th (1959, 1993), 5th (1939, 1941), 6th (1963), 7th (1942, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1953, 1955 and 1957), quarter-finals (1997), 1st round (1975, 1979, 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2011)

How they qualified for FIFA World Cup 2014: Came 4th in the South American qualifying zone with 25pts behind Argentina 32, Colombia 30, Chile 28 and ahead of Uruguay 25, etc… with 7 wins 4 draws and 5 defeats, 20 goals for and 16 against.

Top clubs: Barcelone, Emelec Guayaquil, Liga Quito, Deportivo Quito

Ecuador qualified for their third World Cup thanks to a solid defence and will be bolstered by landing in a relatively easy group where they take on Switzerland, France and Honduras.

They went out in the group stage on their debut in 2002 but made the cut for the second round in 2006. The 2014 qualifying campaign was overshadowed by the death of their centre-forward Christian Benitez, who fell victim to a heart-attack aged just 27.

In their high-altitude home of Quito (2850m), they were unbeaten in eight games, with seven wins and a draw against Argentina. The advantage of the altitude is made plain by the fact that Ecuador didn’t win a single game away from home, losing five and drawing three.

Their Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda is noted for his fine tactical accumen and has retained a trio of old guard veterans to make sure the team profits from the wisdom of experience aswell as the enthusiasm of the youthful new blood he’s also brought in.

Defender and captain Walter Ayovi is 34 but was the only player to start all 16 games for Ecuador while Jorge Guagua of Emelec is 32 and his clubmate Giovanny Espinoza is a ripe old 37.

While the Condors’ strong point in qualifying seemed to be their defence, with a game built on effective counter-attacking, the astonishing speed and power of right winger Antonio Valencia can be a determining factor.

The Manchester United midfielder is not only fast and powerful but plays with his head up seeking out strikers, whilst also being able to set the tempo and provide the final ball. Although his goal tally could be better, he has no problem helping out in defence.

At the spearhead of Ecuador’s attack is Felipe Caicedo (Lokomotiv Moscow), who banged home seven goals in qualifying, while there are also two Mexico-based forwards Joao Rojas (Cruz Azul) and Jefferson Montero, 24, who scored the ‘qualifying’ goal in the 1-0 win over Uruguay.

But out in Brazil everything will be skewered by the brutal death in July 2013 of their forward Cristian Benitez, who scored four goals in nine qualifying games, taking his tally to 24 in 58 for Ecuador before his sudden and depressing demise.

In his memory Ecuador will attempt to reach the last-16, which is where they fell, 1-0 to England, in 2006.

AFP

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