Honduras v Ecuador: 50-50 Challenge

What's at stake?

Nick Rogers: It'll be the 14th time that these teams have met, with Honduras having the upper hand with four victories over Ecuador's three (six draws) -- the last being 2-2 in November last year. Interestingly, both coaches are Colombian and both have coached their opposition's team. Ecuador's Reinaldo Rueda got Honduras to the World Cup in 2010, while Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez reached the second round of the 2006 World Cup with Ecuador. It's a crucial game for Honduras - they must get a result to keep their hopes reaching the knockout round alive.

Nick Dorrington:  Following defeat to Switzerland in their opener, Ecuador know they have to take three points against Honduras if they are to have any realistic hope of reaching the knockout stages. The two teams have faced each other on five occasions since 2006, with the most recent encounter ending in a 2-2 draw in Houston, TX, last November.

Each squad will be very familiar to respective opposition coaches, as Nick says.

-- Rogers: Honduras must rally after defeat

X factor

NR: Carlo Costly. Something else Honduras and Ecuador have in common are very leaky defences. While Ecuador have strong wingers, Honduras should try to keep the ball away from the wings and play through the middle. This means Carlo Costly could be a big asset. He sits behind Jerry Bengston and in front of the midfield, looking for space to thread balls through to the target man. Honduras can also resort to Muma Bernardez's long-ball passing, suiting Costly's game perfectly. With his big frame and good technique, he is able to pull the ball down to the ground and cause problems for central defenders.

ND: Enner Valencia just keeps on scoring. His headed goal against Switzerland extended his run of goalscoring international appearances to five -- a streak that began with a superb long-range strike in the friendly draw with Honduras last November. With Felipe Caicedo drawing the attention of opposition defenders, Valencia's powerful acceleration regularly gets him into dangerous positions in the final third. There are still some raw elements to his game, but he will fancy his chances of adding to his growing goal tally on Friday.

Fear factor

NR: Enner Valencia, as my namesake and rival has pointed out. As stated above, Ecuador have very strong wingers in Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero, who will give Honduras' fullbacks problems. They will be crossing balls into the path of Enner Valencia, who is coming off a great season in Liga MX with Pachuca. He's a quick striker with great technique and very good heading ability. If Wilson Palacios gives him space to run or he gets behind the central defence -- as Honduras has been doing of late -- La H could be in trouble.

ND: Costly is the player giving Ecuador most cause for concern. He scored two well-taken goals in last year's friendly -- making a fool of Guagua before curling a delightful shot into the far corner of the net for his second -- and always seems to reserve his best form for the national team. His partnership with Bengston at the head of Honduras' 4-4-2 certainly has the potential to trouble the Ecuadorian defence.

-- Dorrington: How Ecuador can improve after loss

Key battle

NR: Emilio Izaguirre vs. Antonio Valencia. This clash has all the key ingredients to make a very interesting battle. Izaguirre, the Celtic left wing-back, is Honduras' most consistent performer; defensively sound, though he likes to charge forward and support Roger Espinoza.

Antonio Valencia, Ecuador's captain, remains one of his team's main attacking threats. Izaguirre will have to work harder than usual to nullify the Manchester United attacker's powerful runs, while remaining an attacking force himself.

ND: I agree with Nick, it's going to be Antonio Valencia vs. Izaguirre, although the former had a poor match against Switzerland. The Ecuador coaching staff felt he focused too much on tracking the forward runs of Ricardo Rodriguez, sacrificing some of his own attacking potency in the process. He managed a couple of strong runs down the right -- most notably to set up Michael Arroyo in second half stoppage time -- but he was otherwise a largely peripheral figure.

He will have another similar battle on his hands against the energetic Izaguirre, and the degree to which he is able to impose himself on the contest will go a long way towards determining the outcome of Friday's match.


NR: Honduras 3, Ecuador 2. I see goals in this, maybe it's due to both teams having weak defences or they'll look at their opposition and think, "This is our best opportunity to pick up points." The friendly game last November was exciting but very physical, and it will be interesting to see how Suarez and Rueda size up their teams. Ecuador might feel they are favourites, but Honduras will enjoy being underdogs. These are the games Honduras live for, so expect an open affair.

ND: Ecuador have to win this match in order to keep their qualification hopes alive. If they can start on the front foot, their pace and power in the final third should be sufficient to overcome a limited Honduras side. Ecuador 3, Honduras 1.

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