World Cup 2014 Preview: Ecuador expects to surprise


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Ecuador qualified for its first two World Cups in 2002 and 2006, reaching the round of 16 in Germany before bowing out to England.

And after missing out on the 2010 edition, the team is back with designs on once again finding its way past the group stage.

Ecuador finished fourth in CONMEBOL qualifying by allowing the third-fewest goals in the group, although the fact that Reinaldo Rueda's men scored just 20 times in 16 games is a bit of a concern.

The team had to deal with the tragic death of forward Cristian Benitez last July, leaving a void up top that Felipe Caicedo will hope to fill.

But he should get plenty of help from wingers Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero with much of the team's attack going through the two speedy wide players.

Christian Noboa is a key piece in the midfield for Ecuador, and the defense will be anchored by 34-year-old captain Walter Ayovi, who has earned over 85 caps for his country.

It's hard to imagine Ecuador being handed a better draw with the team finding its way into Group E along with France, Switzerland and Honduras.

France enters the competition as group favorites, but second place is a very reachable goal for Ecuador, especially if the team is able to beat Switzerland in its opening match.

The Swiss figure to be Ecuador's main competition for second place, so Rueda's side cannot afford to get off to a slow start.

Ecuador's second game will be against Honduras and must produce three points if a spot in the second round is a real possibility, while the final contest with France may not hold as much meaning to Les Bleus if they have already secured a place in the next round, which could play to Ecuador's favor.

One thing that Rueda must figure out is a way for his team to earn results away from the altitude in their home stadium in Quito.

Ecuador qualified for the World Cup based on its strong form at home in qualifying, winning seven of its eight matches on home soil.

But when venturing beyond its borders, Ecuador failed to win in eight away games in qualification, totaling only three points.

Obviously the team must find a way to win in Brazil, although it will be helped by playing a pair of European teams on South American soil.

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