When the draw was made for the World Cup there was one seeded team that everyone wanted to play - and that was Switzerland.
The fact that Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side was considered one of the best eight sides on the planet was based on an impressive qualification campaign and victories in some carefully-selected friendlies that appeared designed to push them up the Fifa rankings.
Now, in Brasilia against Ecuador, Hitzfeld’s side will have to justify that assessment. The South Americans, featuring Antonio Valencia and Filipe Caicedo, are renowned for their counter-attacking and, Uruguay apart, the South Americans have enjoyed an impressive set of opening results in Brazil. Given that the Swiss face France in their next match, Hitzfeld cannot afford the pattern to be repeated.
Ecuador have additional motivation to perform. The death of the former Birmingham City striker, Chucho Benitez, from heart failure last year led to them retiring his number 11 shirt, although this is not allowed under Fifa regulations.
ECUADOR: Group E team profile
ECUADOR: Group E team profile
1/5 How they qualified
Ecuador were undefeated at home with six wins and one draw against Argentina but failed to win a single match away from Quito. La Tri lost five of their 15 fixtures, picked up a mere 19 goals and conceded almost one per game. Nevertheless, the team managed to finish fifth at the CONMEBOL which gave them the last qualifying spot. La Tri possess talented attacking players but the statistics prove that there is problem at the back. The team also had to fight through the tragic passing of their striker Christian Benitez who died of heart failure last July. Ecuador dedicated their qualification to the memory of the 27-year-old who also played on loan for Birmingham City.
Reinaldo Rueda became the third Colombian manager to guide Ecuador to a World Cup competition. As a player he only experienced amateur level but as a manager he has proven to be some sort of a miracle worker as he got Honduras into the 2010 tournament. It seems like the country is so pleased with his team’s performance that the Sports Minister suggested that the 57-year-old should be granted citizenship.
3/5 Star Player
Antonio Valencia has the most experience out of all his other Ecuador team-mates as he has been a Manchester United player for the past five years where he has amassed 130 appearances and 13 goals. The 28-year-old is a very resilient right winger that has come back from a horrible injury in 2010 and played for almost 80 minutes in a Champions League game with a swollen eye. La Tri will rely on his pace and passing skills to produce chances.
4/5 Emerging Talent
Jefferson Montero showed quite a lot of talent during his time in La Liga and with 38 caps under his belt, he will be looking to make an impact for his team. The 24-year-old’s speed and dribbling ability make him a winger that cannot be beaten easily on his day.
5/5 How they will line up: (4-4-2)
Dominguez; Erazo, Guagua, Paredes, Ayovi; A Valencia, Noboa, E Valancia, Montero; Castillo, Caideco
Caicedo, Ecuador’s finest player, was given Benitez’s number. Valencia will have an altogether more personal reminder of Benitez - his face is tattooed on the Manchester United player’s arm.
The last World Cup saw the Swiss begin with a 1-0 win over Spain before falling away and failing to qualify from their group. This is a younger side than the one that played in South Africa with Hitzfeld adding that he thought it had “a better mix”.
In an attempt to show that there was harmony in that mix following spats between the Napoli pairing of Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami, Hitzfeld paraded them both at the pre-match press conference. How the pair perform when the whistle blows will, however, be more of a sign of Swiss prospects than any platitudes delivered to a room of journalists.Reuse content