The coach is dreaming high

“There are seven games in the World Cup, and I want to reach the seventh” says Ecuador’s Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda. The 57-year-old was granted citizenship by Honduras when he led the side to the World Cup four years ago. If Rueda’s desire is accomplished, he may be awarded another passport after the tournament.

But there’s little likelihood of Ecuador reaching anywhere close to the final. The side still suffers from the absence of the deceased Christian Benitez. The forward died last year due to a cardio-respiratory arrest and his departure left a deepening impact on the team tactically and psychologically.

Ecuador could score only 20 goals in 16 qualifying matches with seven of those grabbed by Felipe Caicedo — three of his strikes were from the penalty spot. In November last year, the manager was moved to lament his side’s profligacy in front of the goal. “We’re failing in the last metres. At the decisive moment we are lacking precision…”

A fantastic home record of seven wins and a draw, though, helped Ecuador to claim the final automatic qualifying spot.

Serious defensive issues exist as well. “We’ve had problems in this sector. It’s no use trying to cover up the sun with our hands,” remarked Rueda when asked about his side’s failings at the back.

Jayro Campos, arguably Ecuador’s best defender, will miss the tournament due to injury and the responsibility will fall upon the shoulders of experienced players like Walter Ayovi and Jorge Guagua.

Despite the problems, the draw has been relatively kind to Ecuador. Drawn alongside France, Switzerland and Honduras, the side has a realistic chance of making it through to the knockout stage. As former World Cupper Alex Aguinaga says, “I believe we have the best Ecuador team ever. The quantity of players doing well abroad is the greatest in my lifetime.”