CURITIBA: Never mind tiki-taka, false number nines and midfield diamonds.
Ecuador and Honduras kept it plain and simple as they served up a rustic feast of hoofed clearances, lunging challenges and lofted balls in the penalty area in their World Cup Group E match on Friday.
There was plenty of entertainment but little for the purists as Ecuador won 2-1 to keep alive their chances of reaching the second round for the second time.
Honduras had already earned a reputation for employing a robust style of play and managed to draw their slightly more refined opponents into a physical battle on a chilly night in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba.
Honduras central defender Victor Bernardez set the tone when he was booked for hacking down Felipe Caicedo in the fifth minute.
Ecuador like to play down the flanks but Honduras managed to largely keep Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero under wraps, forcing them to adopt a more aerial approach than in their 2-1 defeat against Switzerland.
Not surprisingly, Honduras’s opening goal was a typical route one effort as they thumped a long ball out of defence which should have been headed clear by Ecuador’s Jorge Guagua.
Guagua, however, headed the ball straight at Carlo Costly who charged it down and scored with an emphatic finish, their first goal at a World Cup since 1982.
Ecuador’s equaliser three minutes later was also helped by more poor defending as Juan Carlos Paredes’ deflected cross-shot somehow eluded a confused Honduras defence and the ball was poked home by Enner Valencia at the far post.
The second half continued in the same vein with misplaced passes and sessions of head tennis in midfield interspersed with plenty of goal-mouth action.
Almost inevitably, Ecuador’s winner came when Walter Ayovi floated a free kick into the area and Valencia outjumped his marker to score the winner.
Curiously, both teams are coached by Colombians whose own country has a reputation for refined, and even over-elaborate football.
But Reinaldo Rueda of Ecuador and Luis Fernando Suarez of Honduras have recognised their teams’ limitations, developing a style which makes the most of what is available.
Ecuador, who have three points, still have an outside chance of making the last 16 where they would make difficult, lively opponents for any team, especially if Valencia and Montero are afforded a bit more space on the flanks. Their defence, however, is not likely to withstand a more probing opposition.
If nothing else, they at least proved that their presence at the World Cup is not due entirely to the benefits of playing their home matches at 2,800 metres above sea level in Quito. REUTERS