Ecuador defender Frickson Erazo says that the death of teammate and star player Christian Benitez has brought the squad closer together.
Ecuador defender Frickson Erazo believes that the death of star striker Christian Benitez has brought the squad closer together going into the World Cup.
As not only Ecuador’s most important player but also their most popular, Benitez’s untimely death at the age of just 27 last July shocked the team and the nation, with manager Reinaldo Rueda still struggling to replace his hugely influential presence in the lineup.
Speaking before their opening game against Switzerland on Sunday, Erazo said that the former Birmingham City loanee is still very much in the players’ thoughts and the whole experience has made them stronger as a side.
‘Christian is very much present in our minds and in our hearts. I believe that has made us stronger and in the team we are much more caring,’ he said.
‘We look after each other when we go back to our clubs. We are always calling each other. We are always following closely how each of us are doing, how they are with the club and how their family is.’
Having tragically lost their most respected goalscorer, Ecuador enter the tournament as relative underdogs, with their formidable home record in qualifying of seven wins and one draw stemming from the advantage of a ground 2,800 metres above sea level, as they failed to pick up a single victory on road.
Once a reported target of Manchester United, 26-year-old Erazo is set to start at centre-back in an experienced defence which, with further games against Honduras and France in the group, will need to keep things extremely tight if the side are to have any hope of progressing to the last 16.
Ecuador do have a number of intriguing options who could impress upfront in Brazil, such as Pachuca’s Enner Valencia and former Manchester City man Felipe Caicedo, but there’s no doubt that Benitez’s absence is a huge blow to their chances.
However, the team’s performance in their final warm-up game against England where they came away with a 2-2 draw, was certainly encouraging, and they will be hoping to spring a few similar surprises over the coming weeks in memory of their late teammate.