After an undefeated run at the European qualifiers, Switzerland would love to extend their streak against Ecuador in their group opening match. The Swiss are the favourites to move on to the Round of 16 along with France but Ecuador have proven to be quite a challenging side against strong teams.
It is all smiles for the 2001 Champions League-winning manager Ottmat Hitzfeld as he got all hands on deck ahead of Sunday’s fixture and will be relying a lot on his defence, which is led by Juventus right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner. He will also be looking at his star midfielder Granit Xhaka to offer plenty of solutions at the centre and the wings and to also contribute to the defensive style of play thanks to his impressive pace, strength and passing skills.
The Ecuadorians, on the other hand, have not had the chance to taste victory in their warm-up matches but really made up for it with a draw against England and 2010 finalists Netherlands – although lost 3-1 to Mexico. Manager Reinaldo Rueda will be counting a lot on Manchester United right-winger and star player Antonio Valencia as well as the extremely talented Jefferson Montero who will be expected to start on the left.
KICK-OFF: Sunday, 5pm
The teams have never met before.
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
Switzerland manager Ottmar Hitzfeld has experienced plenty of success as a coach as he has won the Bundesliga on separate occasions with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund and has also picked up a Champions League trophy.
The Swiss have not lost a match since last November against South Korea whereas Ecuador have not won any of their last three warm-ups.
Ecuador’s best performance in the World Cup was in 2006 when La Tri made it to the Group of 16 – however, the South Americans were eliminated by a David Beckham free kick. The Swiss, on the other hand, have made it to the quarter-finals three times in 1934, 1938 and 1954.
Switzerland are picking up their tenth appearance in the finals whereas Ecuador will be featuring for the third time – La Tri’s debut took place in 2002.
Switzerland to win: 6.4
Ecuador to win: 11.5
TV: Live on ITV at 5pm