Tonight in Curitiba we had a match between two teams who didn’t seem to get the memo that this was supposed to be the World Cup of the Americas, Ecuador and Honduras. With both teams suffering opening match losses both needed three points tonight. Ecuador, the favored side, looked to come back from their heartbreaking injury time loss to Switzerland, while Honduras looked forward to playing a match with a full 11 after losing Wilson Palacios to a red card during the first half of their loss to France.
The match started quickly with each team exchanging chances in the first five minutes. Ecuador played to their strengths with Jefferson Montero and Antonio Valencia making strong runs on the flanks. But as they were in their first match against Switzerland, Ecuador were indecisive and wasteful in the final third. Honduras had stretches where they showed off their quality organization, and Ecuador showed their athleticism, both teams lacked the quality that their confederation counterparts have shown thus far in this tournament. None more evident than in the 19th minute when Enner Valencia, after beating the defender, was open on goal and pushed the ball wide left.
But any lack of finishing the teams displayed ended in the 30th minute when Carlos Costly ended Honduras’ 32 year World Cup scoring drought, taking advantage of Jorge Guagua’s mistake and powering a left footed shot into the bottom left corner of the goal. Then less than three minutes later Enner Valencia was able to level the match putting a tap in away from a Juan Carlos Paredes shot. The half ended with a minor controversy when Honduras believed they had a goal wrongfully disallowed, but replays showed that Jerry Bengtson had handled the ball.
The second half started with Honduras looking more organized, but they continuously conceded set pieces to Ecuador in dangerous areas, and it was a 64th minute free kick which allowed Ecuador to take the lead for good. After Jefferson Montero fouled right outside the left side of the box, Walter Ayovi connected with Ecuador’s magic man Enner Valencia for his second goal. For the remainder of the match Honduras tried to equalize by pushing men forward, and despite some good chances Ecuador was able to hold on for the win.
For a team in Ecuador that sometimes suffers because of its lack of discipline and organization, tonight they did well in holding Honduras at bay for the final 30 minutes. For the Hondurans, they were able to end one streak of goalless World Cup minutes, but they were unable to end the streak of no World Cup victories.
Heading into a decisive final match against France, Ecuador’s team morale grows as they have played two good matches despite losing to the Swiss. Ecuador has limitations no doubt, but if they can mature as a team, they may provide France with a challenge.