Ecuador: In MemoriamBy: Juan Mesa
HOW DID THEY GET HERE: Ecuador finished fourth in the CONMEBOL qualifying tournament after solid home performances. The Ecuadorians got 22 of the 25 points they won during the qualification in Quito, which made the best home side in the zone. Ecuador only lost points at the Atahualpa Stadium when they tied 1-1 against first-place Argentina.
BIGGEST STRENGTH: Except for Manchester United’s Luis Antonio Valencia, Ecuador’s roster offers no big names. Yet La Tricolor is a well-balanced team, with tall players that make it strong in the air; a team that can adapt to both physical and technical styles of playing.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Ecuador struggles when playing out of Quito. The players are prone to lose confidence, to show apathy in the back, and to err in the final steps of the attack. In order to meet the expectations they have generated, they need to find a way to feel at home in Brazil.
WORLD CUP CHANCES: The first game, against Switzerland, is crucial for Ecuador to get through Group E. A win in their debut would give them the confidence to defeat Honduras in their second match, and then face France with a foot on the Round of 16. Getting beyond that, to quarterfinals, would be a dream come true.
FUN FACT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Tragedy struck Ecuador with the sudden death of striker Christian “Chucho” Benítez when there were just four games left in the qualifying. But the loss of the charismatic forward became the main motivation for the team to secure the ticket to Brazil. The former Club América player got martyr status when the Ecuadorian federation retired his number 11 jersey. Teammates are using Chucho’s gestures in their goals celebrations and captain Valencia got a "Chucho 11" tattoo on his left arm.
IF THEY WERE A SONG, IT WOULD BE: “The Only One” by the Black Keys.