Ecuador (0-0-0) vs. Switzerland (0-0-0), 12 p.m. (ET)

 

The Sports Network

Brasilia, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Switzerland will hope to take its first step toward the knockout round on Sunday when it faces Ecuador in Group E action at the Estadio Nacional de Brasilia.

After reaching the second round in 2006, the Swiss failed to advance past the group stage four years ago despite opening the tournament with a 1-0 win over eventual champions Spain.

The victory over Spain in South Africa was followed by a 1-0 loss to Chile and a 0-0 draw with Honduras, bringing an end to a promising tournament.

Switzerland has conceded just one goal in its last seven World Cup matches, and it is no secret that the strength of manager Ottmar Hitzfeld's team will once again be at the back.

Goalkeeper Diego Benaglio will be between the posts, while veteran Philippe Senderos will team with talented youngsters Fabian Schar and Ricardo Rodriguez in defense.

Helping to provide cover for the back four will be Napoli duo Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami, which will make it tough to break down the Swiss.

Xherdan Shaqiri and Valentin Stocker will provide plenty of pace on the wings, while Granit Xhaka possesses playmaking ability which the team hopes can set up striker Josip Drmic.

The 21-year-old Drmic finished third in the Bundesliga with 17 goals for Nurnberg this past season, earning him a contract with Bayer Leverkusen, and he will need to replicate that sort of output if Switzerland is going to finish in the top two in the group.

Ecuador, meanwhile, comes into the 2014 tournament hoping to turn heads in Group E, and after missing out on the 2010 edition, the team is back with designs on once again finding its way past the group stage.

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.

Sunday's clash is crucial for both Ecuador and Switzerland as they will likely be battling throughout the group stage for second place.

Neither side will want to drop points and get off to a slow start.

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