Switzerland vs. Ecuador
2014 FIFA World Cup
June 15 | 12 pm ET | Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, Brasilia, Brazil
TV: ABC, Univision, CBC in Canada
After rolling through European qualifying without a loss, red-hot Switzerland begins their quest for a deep World Cup run with a tough match against an Ecuador side that will be looking to ride their home-continent advantage to an opening win.
Are the Swiss for real? Despite coming into the World Cup ranked No. 6 in the world – which earned them one of the eight top seeds – Switzerland have plenty of doubters, in part because they haven’t advanced to the quarterfinals in 60 years. Can they rise to the top of a wide-open Group E that includes European rival France?
Heavy hearts: The sudden death of star striker Christian “Chucho” Benitez midway through World Cup qualifying last year shook Ecuador – and the soccer world – to its core. But his teammates rallied around the tragedy to qualify for the country’s third World Cup ever and now hope to keep winning games in his honor.
This is the first world cup that Ecuador will play without Christian Benitez who tragically passed away in 2013. RIP pic.twitter.com/HHac8rknRQ— The FOOTBALL Bible (@TFBible_) June 4, 2014
Don’t expect a high-scoring affair: Despite their high ranking, Switzerland lack the star power and sizzle of other teams from Europe, having scored just 17 goals in 10 qualifiers. Ecuador also don't have much offensive firepower, finishing with 20 goals in 16 qualifiers as they’ve looked to replace the scoring of Benitez, who had 24 goals in 58 appearances with the national team.
THE STAR YOU KNOW: After bursting onto the scene at the 2006 World Cup, where he was a candidate for the Best Young Player Award (which Germany’s Lukas Podolski won), speedy right winger Antonio Valencia has carved out a nice career at Manchester United since 2009. As he goes, so goes Ecuador.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU: After enjoying a huge season for Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga, Ricardo Rodriguez has been targeted by club giants Chelsea, Liverpool and Inter Milan. A big World Cup from the 21-year-old Swiss defender should raise his stock even more.