Sporting an evenly matched head-to-head record, sharing head coaches over the years and in desperate need of three points, there is very little separating Honduras and Ecuador ahead of their critical Group E matchup Friday at Arena Da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil
Head-to-head the two countries couldn’t be more evenly matched. Honduras has won four times, and Ecuador claims three wins. They’ve also drawn six other times, most recently in their last meeting in November which ended 2-2.
Both are also led by Colombian nationals who held each other’s positions before. Ecuador’s Reinaldo Rueda guided Honduras to the World Cup in 2010 and Honduras’s Luis Fernando Suarez elevated Ecuador to the Round of 16 in 2006.
While respect will be shown on both sides given their past relationships and deep ties, each side must contend for a victory to keep pace with France and Switzerland after losing their opening matches.
Honduras must recover following its 3-0 breakdown against France, highlighted by some unsportsmanlike play from Los Catrachos and midfielder Wilson Palacios’s send off.
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One of the most seasoned players on Honduras’s roster with 95 career appearances, the 29-year-old defensive midfielder received his second yellow of the match in the 43rd minute after committing a bad foul on France’s Paul Pogba in the penalty area. The miscue put France up 1-0 following Karim Benzema’s penalty and Honduras could never recover.
Goalkeeper Noel Valladares’s own goal in the first three minutes of the second half further demoralized Honduras, and they could never gain any momentum on the attack. Palacios and defender Bonek Garcia garnered the Hondurans mere two shots on goal, compared to 10 for France.
Ecuador let three points slip away after maintaining a one-goal advantage throughout the first half against Switzerland, only to concede two goals in the final 34 minutes and continue the inconceivable comeback trend in Brazil this year. Forward Enner Valencia converted Walter Ayovi’s cross into a close range header in the 22nd minute for the early lead, but Ecuador wouldn’t contain the Swiss for long.
A victory was still possible after Admir Mehmedi knotted the game 1-1 with his header, but Ecuador forward Michael Arroyo later hesitated in the penalty box and Swiss Valon Behrami’s risky defensive play sparked a fast break that led to Haris Seferovic’s goal in added time.
With Palacios’s absence hurting Honduras’s already struggling defense, Ecuador’s midfield of Carlos Gruezo and Antonio Valencia should come out blazing with quick outlets to Enner Valencia and, if subbed in, Arroyo.
The success of Honduras’s attack will fall largely on forwards Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengston. Capable of feeding his wingers and strikers with deep balls, Costly, who scored seven goals in 13 appearances for Real Espana last term, will likely play a crucial role.
Costly will look to get Bengston involved early. The 27-year-old has played for MLS’s New England Revolution for the last two years and netted four goals, but on the international stage he’s performed far better with 19 goals in 44 appearances since 2010.
Start Time: Friday, 6 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Online Stream: A live online stream is available at Watch ESPN here
Betting odds: (bovada.lv)
Honduras win: 9/2; Ecuador win: 10/17; Draw: 16/5
Prediction: Ecuador 2-0 Honduras