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Matchday 14: Messi, Argentina in round of 16

Five Aside Jun 25, 2014
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Victory keeps Ecuador's dreams alive

Ecuador Jun 20, 2014
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How Ecuador can improve after loss

Ecuador Jun 15, 2014
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Ecuador's prediction: Last 16

Ecuador Jun 9, 2014
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Ecuador's Montero could be key

Ecuador Jun 3, 2014
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 Posted by Nick Dorrington
Jun 15, 2014

How Ecuador can improve after loss

FC analyst Alexi Lalas says Ecuador risked too much at the end of their match with Switzerland.

Three things that Ecuador need to do to improve after losing 2-1 to Switzerland in the final minute on Sunday.

Keep their defensive solidity

Ecuador's defence was the area causing the most concern for the coaching staff prior to the tournament. For 90-odd minutes on Sunday, it did a solid job, largely limiting Switzerland to efforts from outside the penalty area.

Carlos Gruezo and Christian Noboa -- who seemed to play a little within himself on his return from a muscle strain -- sat in front of the back four, both full-backs were fairly conservative in their forward movement, and Antonio Valencia tracked back diligently to halt dangerous Switzerland left-back Ricardo Rodriguez. Indeed, throughout the game, Ecuador ensured that their opponent had no obvious route to goal.

However, one moment of poor defending on a corner, which saw Gruezo mismatched against substitute Admir Mehmedi, allowed Switzerland to equalise early in the second half. Ecuador's defending became a little more ragged thereafter. Frickson Erazo missed a couple of clearances and gave the ball away with two sloppy passes out of defence, while Jorge Guagua was lucky to have Josip Drmic's strike incorrectly called back for offside after he failed to clear a low cross into the area.

Still, Switzerland did not create any more opportunities of note until they struck a late sucker punch in stoppage time when Haris Seferovic fired home unmarked from close range to give them all three points.

Ecuador were competently organised, but individual lapses of concentration are an issue that Reinaldo Rueda and his staff have been unable to resolve.

Be less cautious

Ecuador dropped deep after taking a 22nd-minute lead through Enner Valencia, content to sit back, soak up pressure and hit Switzerland on the break. It was an approach that made perfect sense for a side featuring a number of quick forwards, and Ecuador did cause their opponent problems on the counterattack during the remainder of the first half.

After Switzerland equalised just after the break, however, there was no resultant change in Ecuador's tactics. They continued to invite pressure on a defence that is prone to errors, leading to a number of potentially dangerous situations. When they did attack, there was often little support for the man in possession. Switzerland were able to put two men on Jefferson Montero without suffering a numerical disadvantage elsewhere in their defensive third.

Ecuador showed more attacking intent in the final 15 minutes and got into some promising positions. Johan Djourou was booked for pulling down Antonio Valencia as he threatened to break in behind, while substitute Michael Arroyo might have won Ecuador the match had he been quicker in firing off a shot after receiving a low pull-back.

The difficulties they caused Switzerland at the beginning and end of the match suggest that Ecuador could have come away with three points had they not been so cautious for the majority of the second half. For that, Rueda has to take a large chunk of the blame.

Capitalise on Enner Valencia's form

Enner Valencia rose unmarked to head home Walter Ayoví's excellent set-piece delivery for Ecuador's only goal of the game and came closest to adding to their tally with a superb curling effort from the edge of the area that went narrowly over the crossbar.

His touch let him down on a few occasions and he underhit a couple passes to teammates -- most notably an opportunity to release Montero during the first half -- but his pace and power caused numerous problems for the Switzerland defence. Valencia was unlucky not to score after beating goalkeeper Diego Benaglio to a long ball forward and was upended by Djourou after breaking free in the final minutes.

Valencia's goal means that he has now scored in each of his last five international appearances, and he will need to score a few more yet if Ecuador are to have any chance of reaching the round of 16. If his teammates can get him the ball, it seems he has the confidence to put it away.