Ecuador may go into Friday’s qualifier against Chile without their only true superstar and talisman, Antonio Valencia. The Manchester United winger is carrying an injury and it will be last minute race for his inclusion.
It’s hard to over-emphasis the dependency of Ecuador upon Valencia. Most of the national teams attacking play flow down the right wing and with Valencia’s bombing runs or link up play with Juan Carlos Paredes.
In last month’s qualifier, Bolivia doubled upped on Valencia neutralising his effect upon the game and it was a ploy that nearly got them a point. Chile should be more adventurous but still mindful of the Valencia effect.
Luckily “El Tri” has a relative amount of depth in their squad and Vitesse Arnhem’s; Renato Ibarra may be called upon to fill the void. Added to this Christian Noboa will return after suspension and livewire, Jefferson Montero comes back after pulling his hamstring versus Bolivia.
Ecuador is strong in midfield. Luis Saritama is a cultured “centro-campista” who has the ability to link midfield to attack well and spray incisive passes down the sides. Personally I feel he is underrated and overlooked.
Similarly Segundo Castillo and Oswaldo Minda are competent midfielders with experience abroad.
In attack Ecuador also have genuine quality. Christian Benitez is currently banging them in in Mexico for giants Club America. Hardly a week goes by without him claiming a goal in a strong national league. Although not tall by European standards Benitez has great strength and blistering speed.
In all likelihood he will be partnered by Felipe Caicedo, once of Manchester City. After a brief hiatus from the national team Caicedo has returned to claim two goals in the last two games: both penalties against Bolivia then Uruguay. The Barcelona partnership of Michael Arroyo and Narciso Mina should provide back up in attrack.
Ecuador’s one other injury problem is centre half Jairo Campo who has severely torn his Achilles and will sit out all football for at least two months. His omission is a blow for Ecuador as he is a dominant leader in defence but Jorge Guagua or Friksen Arazo should ably deputise for the games against Chile and Venezeula.