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Friday, September 6, 2013

Missing points: How Ecuador will find it tough to reach the World Cup

A few months ago it seemed almost certain that the Ecuador national soccer team would be at Brazil 2014. Two games later that is no longer the case. Where in the past 4 rounds of qualifiers dating back to 1998, points in Peru had been all but assured, this time was different. Zero points in June. And where every single match at the Atahualpa had yielded 3 points, Argentina stole 2 away.

So now the team is 5 points away from the World Cup. Right now they would have 26 points and would be one win away from the tournament. As it stands now, a win at Bolivia next week and a win at home versus Uruguay in the last home game is required to enter the tournament.

Chile is likely to surpass Ecuador today as they face Venezuela at home. "La Roja" is particularly dangerous with players like Alexis Sanchez and Humberto Suazo while Venezuela, an upstart in recent years, is likely not strong enough to steal points away in Santiago. With a win by the Chileans, Ecuador will go down to fourth place. 

Further complicating things is Uruguay. Luis Suarez returns to the squad and they can certainly take all 3 points away from Peru today. A game versus Colombia might also yield points and a total of 6 points will put them ahead of Ecuador by Tuesday if the Ecuadorians are unable to get any of the 6 or even 1 point in the next two games. Same would happen if Venezuela wins 6 points.

Let's be clear. Bolivia are out already, even if the highly-unlikely situation in which they win their next four games. Peru, at 14, has a better chance but still would need a serious run for all 12 points. It becomes a matter of mathematics at this point if Ecuador do not win any points in the next couple of games. A win versus Uruguay in October would be a must and even that might not be enough if the "Charruas" win all six points this week and still have another game in hand.

So what does Ecuador have to make this happen? Some pride and good quality for sure. Felipe Caicedo is on board, as is Valencia, Rojas, Mina, Montero and Walter Ayovi. How Reinaldo Rueda will line up his squad and defensive/offensive posture is up in the air. Ball possession has been key but early game management has haunted this team of late. 

The absence of Chucho Benitez is key now. The recent, painful loss of the Ecuador ace could also be used as a way to rile up the national team. To play for their fallen comrade. To make it to the tournament in his honor after he gave so much to the country and the team. So, play for him, Ecuador. Play for love.

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