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Ecuador vs. England: Match Preview, Projected Lineups, Key Players

Published by Bleacher Report on Wed, 04 Jun 2014


Ecuador vs. England features a clash of two World Cup-bound teams from far different walks of life. The South American side, about to make just their third appearance in the tournament proper, take on the nation that won the coveted trophy way back in 1966.This match is set for a 3 pm EDT kick-off on June 4 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL.These two nations have met once beforeinterestingly enough, in a World Cup match. That came in the 2006 edition in Germany, where a brilliant David Beckham free kick sent England through to the quarterfinals.There's a lot less at stake this time around, given that it's just a friendly, but it's still one to keep an eye on.Ecuador, led by head coach Reinaldo Rueda and captain Antonio Valencia, finished fourth in the CONMEBOL qualification group, seeing them gain automatic entry over Uruguay. They dropped just two points at homea draw with Argentinaand were led in scoring by Felipe Caicedo's seven.Striker Christian Benitez had four goals in the qualifiers, but his tragic death in July 2013 stunned the nation and its team. FEF officials decided to retire the No. 11 jersey "Chucho" wore, though FIFA rules mean the number will be donned by Caicedo in Brazil.Benitez's 24 career goals in 58 caps sit third on the La Tri's all-time scoring list.England enter the World Cup having topped their UEFA qualification group by a single point over Ukraine. Roy Hodgson's men didn't make easy work of running through the group unbeaten, but it doesn't matter how they got there, just that they did it. Wayne Rooney led the scoring charts, matching Caicedo's total of seven.Both teams have played matches in the days leading up to this encounter. Ecuador fell 3-1 at the hands of Mexico, while England notched a simple 3-0 victory over another South American side in Peru.How will this meeting play out' Let's examine a couple of aspects.Projected lineupsNow that both nations have finalized their 23-man squads, we have a better idea of who will feature in this matchup.In their match against Mexico, Ecuador put out the following starting setup:Estos son nuestros 11 guerreros: Banguera; Paredes, Guagua, Erazo, Ayov; Castillo, Mndez, Montero, Martnez; Ayov, Rojas F.E.F. (@FEFecuador) May 31, 2014To take on England, expect to see some changes. For one, we'll insert Caicedo and goalscorer Enner Valencia at forward over Jaime Ayovi and Joao Rojas. Also, expect to see Antonio Valencia return to the starting XI in his usual right-wing position ahead of the younger Fidel Martinez, across from the dangerous Jefferson Montero.Rueda does have good depth at that spot, though, with Vitesse player Renato Ibarra also in the 23-man squad. Ibarra, who has 17 caps to his name, was pretty much a fixture in the Dutch side as he made 32 Eredivisie appearances and could be a key spark-plug for La Tri as a starter or sub.Should Rueda wish to rest his skipper, he can have faith that his wing will not suffer.One last change involves the removal of injured midfielder Segundo Castillo. The Al-Hilal man made Rueda's 23 despite a knee injury suffered in the Mexico match. Per the FEF(in Spanish), he will need several weeks of treatment and is thus all but out of contention to play in Brazil.A likely replacement for Castillo would be Christian Noboa. The 29-year-old, who holds 41 Ecuador caps, made 29 league appearances for Dinamo Moscow scoring six goals. An alternative option would be Barcelona SC midfielder Luis Saritama.The final projection: Maximo Banguera; Juan Carlos Paredes, Jorge Guagua, Frickson Erazo, Walter Ayovi; Montero, Noboa, Mendez, A. Valencia; E. Valencia, CaicedoEngland utilized this XI from the start against Peru:.@England Team: Hart, Johnson, Baines, Gerrard (c), Cahill, Jagielka, Sturridge, Rooney, Welbeck, Henderson, Lallana #3lions #EngvPer England (@england) May 30, 2014This looks a strong setup, but Roy Hodgson is expected to ring in the changes for this one. After the win over Peru, he told Goal.com that he "will make certain that every member of the squad has at least played some football before we get to face Italy."Hodgson also pointed out, per Jason Burt of theTelegraph, that the nation's "obsession" with Rooney is "sad" and refused to guarantee anything in his lineup beyond his back five and Steven Gerrard. Put that together, and it's hard to see the Manchester United man facing Ecuador from the start.With this, we'll insert new Liverpool striker Rickie Lambert into the squad alongside new teammate Daniel Sturridge. Burt also lists a few other names likely to be selected for this one, including Phil Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling.Not all of these players will start, though Matt Law of the Telegraph indicates that the first two have been told they will.Jones ought to feature in defense, which may see further rotation as well. We might see 11 entirely different players, really, but there should be at least a couple holdovers.The final projection: Ben Foster; Glen Johnson, Jones, Cahill, Luke Shaw; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gerrard, Jack Wilshere, Barkley; Sturridge, LambertPlayers to watchAntonio Valencia is far and away Ecuador's biggest name and best player. His pace down the right flank poses a danger to any left-back, let alone the 18-year-old in the projection. But it's the man he shares his name with, Pachuca striker Enner, who is turning heads.The 25-year-old Valencia led Liga MX with 12 goals in the 17-game Clausura season. He also added a brace in the first leg of the Clausura playoffs, completing a strong first campaign with Pachuca after his move from Guayaquil-based Emelec.Valencia has just nine caps to his name but has already picked up three goals for La Tri, including his side's only goal against Mexico. His high level of performance over the last few months all but guarantees him a spot in Rueda's setup against Switzerland, so it'll be interesting to see how he fares against a top side like England.He didn't feature in a recent 1-1 draw against Robin van Persie's Netherlands squad, but tricky winger Jefferson Montero did. Indeed, he notched the game's opening goal in the first 10 minutes of the game, getting Ecuador off to a great start against a European power.Montero, who currently plies his trade for Morelia in Mexico, offers great pace down the left wing to replicate that of Antonio Valencia on the right. He also possesses a good eye for attackingevidenced by his hat-trick for Morelia against Toluca in July.He completes a pretty strong attacking group of himself, the two Valencias and Caicedo. If Ecuador can get a hold of the ball in their defensive zone, expect Montero to be one of the first to call for the ball and lead a quick counter.On the other side, England obviously possess more than a few household names to follow.Let's start with Lambert, whose ascension from factory worker to World Cup-caliber England international continues. The former Southampton man already has a pair of goals in his four caps, including one on his debut and another in qualifying play.He'll certainly bring something different to the table than Rooney, offering much more physicality while still retaining his eye for goal. With the mobility of Sturridge and pacy attackers around him, he ought to see plenty of the ball in and around the box, giving him opportunities to make his case to start in Brazil.Another one to look out for is Lambert's former club teammate Luke Shaw. The young defender has just a single England cap to his name, but his rapid ascent at Southampton got him a berth in this squad over Ashley Cole and might yet see him warrant a 30 million transfer fee, if John Richardson of the Express is to be believed.Shaw offers tons of attacking intent down the left flank to go alongside an uncanny awareness and confidence in his all-around game for a player his age. While such an exorbitant fee is ludicrous for a player his age, the talent is there. He's shown he can handle himself domestically.Now it's time to see him shine on the international stage.PredictionFriendlies can be tough to predict sometimes, largely since it's hard to gauge the effort that'll be put into them. Look no further than Ecuador stealing a draw from the Netherlands.England come into this one on good form and with tons of talent to spare, even if they rotate most of their squad. Ecuador were just defeated soundly by Mexico and so will be looking to give themselves a boost of confidence before shipping off to Brazil.In the end, we should see plenty of good attacking intent from both sides. But as with the last time Ecuador faced a European side in the United Statesa 4-2 loss to Germanylast Maythey might just find themselves in over their heads.Ecuador 1-3 EnglandFeel free to add your own thoughts below, and follow me on Twitter.Follow @agruber6Read more World Football news on BleacherReport.com
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