Outright odds: 200/1
To win group: 9/2
To qualify: 21/20
Full squad: Maximo Banguera (Barcelona, Ecuador), Adrian Bone (El Nacional), Alexander Dominguez (Liga de Quito); Gabriel Achilier (Emelec), Walter Ayovi (Pachuca), Oscar Bagui (Emelec), Frickson Erazo (Flamengo), Jorge Guagua (Emelec), Juan Carlos Paredes (Barcelona, Ecuador); Segundo Castillo (Al Hilal), Carlos Gruezo (Stuttgart), Renato Ibarra (Vitesse Arnhem), Fidel Martinez (Tijuana), Edison Mendez (Santa Fe), Christian Noboa (Dinamo Moscow), Luis Saritama (Barcelona, Ecuador), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United); Jaime Ayovi (Tijuana), Felipe Caicedo (Al-Jazira), Jefferson Montero (Morelia), Joao Rojas (Cruz Azul), Enner Valencia (Pachuca), Michael Arroyo (Atlante).
Manager: Reinaldo Rueda
World Cup record: Last 16 (2006), Group stage (2002)
Ecudaor’s World Cup is going to be more emotional than most. They’ll be doing it for ‘Chucho’, following the shock passing of striker Christian Benitez who died of heart failure in Qatar last year. A former start of Mexican football, who scored 15, 14, 18, 22 and 23 before moving, and his influence upon the squad cannot be underestimated even in memory.
Felipe Cacedo is the main attacking threat, having scored 7 goals in qualifying, far better than the poor league campaign that he had for Al-Jazira, and he will need to turn up and bring his A-Game to the finals, with Enner Valencia’s emergence for Pacheuca in Mexico providing another outlet. He started only three games in qualifying, and it remains to be seen just how the two perform although against England they seemed to show plenty when they got forward.
Out wide, Educador’s strongest asset is the pace and power of Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero, but the former had a very poor season for Manchester United, scoring just 2 goals and being let down by a lack of proper control on many occasions, and the same was true of Montero, had a difficult season with his club, Morelia in Mexico, and both will need to improve and quickly if they are to make it through the group stages.
Defender Frackson Erazo’s performances have secured him a move to Brazilian giants Flamengo, but Jorge Guagua played just nine league games through the whole season for Emelec, just over half of what was only a 17 game league season.
However outside of the central defenders there are benefits, Walter Ayovi and Juan Carlos Pardes – playing as wingbacks, like they do for their clubs -offer yet more width to a side that is going to be a danger on the speed front
Crucial to all of this will be Christian Noboa, the Dymano Kiev midfielder who has to protect the centrebacks and then supply the widemen to either side, a job he seems well able to perform in style, along with his partner Segundo Castillo in the centre of the park. Whatever the result, it’s likely to be entertaining.