The FIFA World Cup Team Runthrough Thread For 5/3/14: #27 Ecuador

 Photo From API 

Projected Formation (4-2-2)

     Paredes  -  Erazo - Guagua - W.Ayovi   

    Valencia  - Castillo -  Noboa -   Montero 

                     Caicedo - J. Ayovi         

The Runthrough

While the other five CONMEBOL nations in this World Cup have been talked about as either title favorites (Brazil, Argentina) or trendy darkhorse picks (Uruguay, Chile, and Colombia), Ecuador has once again gone under the radar, with most thinking they will have the least success out of the South American nations this June. 

Reinaldo Rueda was heavy criticized by Honduras fans for his defensive tactics in the last World Cup, as the CONCACAF nation exited the tournament in a tough group that consisted of solid Switzerland, rising Chile, and the eventual world champions Spain. 

Rueda will draw the ire of Honduras' fans once more, as his new side Ecuador have been drawn into Group E with Los Catrachos. The 57-year-old will also see the seeded Swiss side once more, with 1998 world champs France being the only unfamiliar face for him. 

Ecuador proved in their last trip to the World Cup in 2006 that they can play away from their massive home advantage of high elevation Quito by finishing second in Group A with host Germany atop. However, Ecuador was greatly facilitated by a dream draw with Poland and Costa Rica being the other two teams in that group as well as playing Germany the final group game instead of the opening two. By then Ecuador had secured those two massive wins to progress to the Round of 16 before being swept aside by England in one of the most lopsided 1-0 games ever in a World Cup Finals.  

Those same questions on their road strength will be placed onto to them, as they failed to win a game away from Quito in CONMEBOL qualifying and needed a 1-0 victory over Uruguay to hold off the Copa America champions' late 4th place charge. 

At least Rueda knows who will be his first choice centerback pairing after the retirement of Ecuadorian legendary tough man Ivan Hurtado. After seeing the constant struggles of Gabriel Achilier and Jairo Campos, Rueda looks to give Jorge Guagua and Frickson Erazo the starts in front of decent goalkeeper Maximo Banguera. Although neither are on the level of Hurtado, both Gugagua and Erazo are less mistake prone than the shaky pairing before. However, they will have to firmly communicate with their attacking fullbacks. Watford's Juan Paredes is fine going forward on the right but can easily fall asleep against deep runs on his side of the field. The solid veteran leftback Walter Ayovi certainly likes to burst in an opposition's half as well, but must pick his spots at age 34 wisely, or he will be painfully caught out. 

The strength of the Ecuadorian side resides on their outside wingers, as the vastly underrated talent Jefferson Montero and captain Antonio Valencia have the pace to give any defense problems. After a disappointing time in La Liga with Villarreal, Levante, and Betis, Montero has been a rejuvenated player in his time at Morelia. The 24-year-old capped off his ride back to prominence with a fine goal against Holland (set up by Paredes' work) in the first prep friendly for La Tri. 

While Montero has had an upswing, Valencia has been apart of the worst season for Manchester United in the Premier League era. He was criticized often this year as not having the sharp edge directness that he once brought to the club, where some are questioning if he can be that dynamic force he was a few years back when he battles the left backs he will face in Group E: club teammate Patrice Evra (France), emerging force Ricardo Rodriguez (Switzerland), and the underrated Emilo Izaguirre (Honduras). 

Valencia and Montero will need Segundo Castillo and Christian Noboa to be sound in the middle for them to have freedom in the final half. Despite playing now in Saudi Arabia, Castillo has a bit more left in him as a destroyer to allow Noboa to join the front four. The Dynamo Moscow man had a fine season, starting it off in a somber way in August by dedicating a goal to his late friend "Chucho" Benitez. 

If Noboa is allowed to join Valencia and Montero in the creative elements, that will spell fine possibilities for the young, fast and dangerous forward trio of Felipe Caicedo  Enner Valencia and Jaime Ayovi. Caicedo is a man with more global renown than his Liga MX based counterparts, but both Ayovi and Valencia are capable of finishing well. Valencia was the Mexican Clasura's top scorer this spring and almost single handedly lead Pachuca to the title over Leon. It has been quite the transformation for the 25-year-old from San Lorenzo, who started off as a winger but was switched over to forward by Rueda after Benitez's death. Now he has joined Caicedo in being CONMEBOL's most underrated strike partnership. 

A quartet of talented attacking options on the bench are provided for Rueda if he uses them properly. The over 100 caps veteran Edison Mendez is still an integral part of this side at age 35, while Jaime Ayovi and 24-year old wingers Joao Rojas and Fidel Martinez provide decent backup in case Antonio Valencia or Montero go down. 

It is vital for Ecuador to use their athleticism well in Group E, as they will likely be placed under pressure by their European rivals for advancement. But when it comes to facing Honduras, they will need the true cutting edge from good combinations in tight spaces to advance to the knockout stages. And prove once and for all that their play can elevate without Quito's elevation.       

Under The Radar, Key Players: 

Castillo has to be an ominous presence in the destoryers role in front of Erazo and Guagua while allowing Noboa to help the front four. If he does so, Ecuador will place themselves in a good spot to advance out of the group. 
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