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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 June 2006, 06:51 GMT 07:51 UK
Ecuador uncovered
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

World Cup minnows Ecuador will fight for a place among the best eight teams in the world on Sunday but to get to there they must first get past one of football's glamour sides - England.

The South American side are something of an unknown quantity for England - the two sides last met in 1970 and England triumphed 2-0.

After two impressive victories in the group stage, Ecuador have every right to dream of success and England should be looking to play at a much higher tempo.

Segundo Castillo (left) and Edison Mendez pull the strings for Ecuador
Ecuador's secret weapons: Castillo and striker Mendez

If Ecuador are to pull off an unlikely upset they will certainly have to improve on their losing performance in their last Group A match against Germany.

Veteran captain Ivan Hurtado will return to organise the defence. The return of Agustin Delgado and Carlos Tenorio will give them greater presence and punch up front.

Segundo Castillo, who has only just broken into the side, should slot back in as one of the midfield guard dogs, and Neicer Reasco will be tighter defensively at left back than Paul Ambrosi.

Ecuador, then, should be better than they were against Germany. However, unless England plumb new depths, it is hard to see the South Americans making it through to the last eight.

Ecuador look to strike quickly down the flanks - if England can impose their rhythm then Ecuador's strikers will have to live off scraps

The rise of Ecuador has been truly remarkable. In this tournament, though, they were flattered by the poor quality of football presented by Poland and Costa Rica.

In Miroslav Szymkowiak and Walter Centeno respectively, both built their attack around an old style playmaker, static in midfield waiting for the ball to be brought to him.

Surrounded by sluggish passing and movement, they were easy prey for Ecuador's tigerish duo of Castillo and Edwin Tenorio.

England can rely on Steve Gerrard and Frank Lampard making diagonal runs that should drag Ecuador's midfield markers around the pitch and force them into fouls.

David Beckham's delivery into the penalty box is likely to cause problems to a side that are not especially comfortable defending in the air.

The gangling Giovanny Espinoza does his best to hold the defence together in this respect.

He is the left-sided centre back but if in open play he can be lured wide then Beckham should have the chance to take advantage.

Ecuador look to strike quickly down the flanks, where the full backs link up with their two talented midfielders, Edison Mendez and Luis Antonio Valencia.

England duo Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard
England duo Gerrard and Lampard should contain Ecuador's midfielders

If England can impose their rhythm and force this pair back then Ecuador's strikers will have to live off scraps.

They have two main attacking weapons. First, the long range shooting of Mendez and Valencia. Mendez, in particular, is a specialist, and excels at keeping his fierce shots down.

The main threat, though, comes from crosses for the right - indeed with Ambosi on the bench they lack a left foot and have shown little from this flank.

In contrast, all of their goals have come from balls played in from the right.

Germany had clearly done their homework before their meeting with Ecuador.

Philip Lahm, such an impressive attacking left back in the opening two games, hardly crossed the halfway line against Ecuador.

He concentrated on making sure the gate stayed shut - perhaps Ashley Cole should take note.

England, then, should have enough to win but, whatever the result, there should be plenty to celebrate in Quito afterwards.

Ecuador can already look back with pleasure and pride at their first European adventure. If they win, the place will go wild but even if they lose Quito should party into the night.

South American World Cup view
19 Jun 06 |  World Cup 2006
Ecuador team guide
22 May 06 |  Ecuador
World Cup schedule
25 May 06 |  Schedule
Have your say on the World Cup
28 Apr 06 |  Football
BBC World Cup coverage
27 Apr 06 |  BBC coverage

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