With defeats by France and Switzerland in their opening games, Honduras and Ecuador go into this game knowing defeat would all but end their involvement in the competition. So which way will it go? Our Honduras expert Joshua Nadel takes on Ecuador guru Rupert Fryer in our latest Expert v Expert preview.
Joshua Nadel on Honduras: Expect Honduras to play a 4-4-2, as the experiment with the 4-3-3 against France did not work as expected. But the Honduran line-up is a little unsettled. Los Catrachos are waiting on the fitness of Victor Bernardez; if he cannot start Osman Chávez will take his spot as center back, along with Beckeles, Figueroa, and Izaguirre. With no Wilson Palacios, the midfield too is unsettled. Expect Najar, Garrido, and Espinoza to start, along with Jorge Claros. Costly and Jerry Bengston will likely start up front. Boniek García—who played a strong second half against France—may get the start ahead of Najar.
Rupert Fryer on Ecuador: Coach Reinaldo Rueda looks set to stick with the same XI that suffered a stoppage-time defeat to Switzerland in their World Cup opener, insisting the final minute of the game should not lead to a complete reinterpretation of the 89 that preceded it. He also suggested this week that emotion got the better of them in the final stages of their World Cup opener – they’ll have to keep their cool against a vehemently physical Honduras.
Joshua Nadel: Honduras’ opening match against France could not have gone much worse. The 3-0 loss stings, and a -3 goal differential means that Honduras would likely have to win their final two matches to get out of the group. Realistically, this will not happen. To compound the loss, Wilson Palacios was ejected after receiving two yellow cards, meaning that the team’s midfield rock will be absent for the encounter against Ecuador. Honduras will need to get the ball to their strikers, neither of whom took a shot during the team’s first game. Remember too that these teams know each other well: Ecuador’s coach, Reinaldo Rueda, coached Honduras to World Cup 2010, while Luis Fernando Suárez brought Ecuador to Germany 2006.
Rupert Fryer: Ecuador were largely happy with their performance against the Swiss but Rueda will no doubt be hoping to see more from his attacking players against a Honduras side that should offer little threat. Enner Valencia now has five goals in his last five appearances but his strike partner Felipe Caicedo, la Tri’s top scorer in qualification, must use his speed and strength to impose himself on the game after underwhelming against the Swiss. Jefferson Montero is the side’s potential star and while we saw flashes of his talent last week, he must start finding an end product.
WHAT THE MANAGER SAYS
Luis Fernando Suárez on Honduras: “Our team has intensity and attitude. We do not want to lose a single ball.”
Reinaldo Rueda on Ecuador: "To beat Honduras we will need to apply our tactical approach and use the ball well. We have to have the ball at our feet to attack, otherwise you cannot threaten their goal.”
Joshua Nadel: The key man in the match for Honduras is keeper Noel Valladares. The speed of Ecuador will test the Honduran backline, so Valladares will have to be on his game. More than his goalkeeping, he needs to show he has recovered confidence after spilling the ball over the line for France’s second goal.
Rupert Fryer: Enner Valencia’s goal-scoring form could prove vital against an opposition that will look to sit back and defend. The 25-year-old arrived at the World Cup off the back of a prolific first season in Mexican football with Pachuca and is already attracting a number of European admirers. His pace and power can be devastating but he will need to link up better with strike partner Caicedo if they are to ram the Honduran door down.
Joshua Nadel: Should Honduras score, Carlos Costly may well be the man at odds of 4.25. In a friendly between Ecuador and Honduras in November 2013, he scored scored two second-half goals.
Rupert Fryer: Enner Valencia to score any time offers value at 2.45. Caicedo, meanwhile, has quite a temper on him – during qualification he was left so furious by a referee’s insistence that he take a penalty from what had become a hole in the ground that he forwent his subsequent celebrations to give said official the evil eyes. He was booked 4 times in 9 qualifiers and with Honduras set to kick anything that moves, 4.75 on Caicedo reacting and picking up a card looks an excellent bet.
Joshua Nadel: Honduras 1-2 Ecuador at odds of 9.00
Rupert Fryer: Honduras 0-2 Ecuador at odds of 8.00
Bet on Group E now.