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Suarez to lead Ecuador to next World Cup

QUITO, July 26 (Reuters) - Ecuador coach Luis Fernando Suarez has agreed to stay on in the job with the aim of taking the team to the 2010 World Cup.

'They have reached an agreement and he will stay for the next (World Cup) qualifying competition,' Suarez's spokesman Antonio Bravo said on Wednesday after a meeting between the coach and officials from the Ecuadorean Football Federation (FEF).

Ecuador, playing in their second World Cup finals, reached the last 16 in Germany after beating Poland and Costa Rica in their group. They eventually lost 1-0 to England.

Their progress sparked massive celebrations in a country deeply divided by political instability and poverty.

Suarez is the only coach of the four South American teams at the World Cup to keep his job. Brazil's Carlos Alberto Parreira, Argentina's Jose Pekerman and Paraguay's Anibal Ruiz all left following the tournament.

Suarez, a 47-year-old Colombian, took over after compatriot Hernan Dario Gomez resigned following a poor performance at the Copa America in 2004.

He guided Ecuador through the remainder of the marathon South American qualifying competition, beating both Brazil and Argentina at home in the process.

FEF president Luis Chiriboga said: 'You don't change a winning team, you keep it intact.

'It gives us great satisfaction to inform the country that we will keep working with the same team, with the same ambition of helping Ecuadorean football.'

Suarez will lead the team to next year's Copa America in Venezuela and will stay until the 2010 World Cup in South Africa if they qualify.

Ecuador, once considered one of the weakest teams in South America, made their first World Cup appearance in 2002 when they were knocked out in the first round.