2014 World Cup team preview: Ecuador

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Getting to know… Ecuador: The South American nation have qualified for two of the last three World Cups but it has been eight years since they graced the worlds biggest stage. In 2006 they reached the knockout stages for the only time in their history, losing to England 1-0 in Stuttgart in the round of 16. The mountainous nation has some of the highest soccer stadiums on the planet and the national teams home in the capital Quito is a fortress. They only dropped two points at home during the entire 2014 qualifying campaign.

Record in qualifying: Ecuador finished fourth in CONMEBOL qualifying and secured the final automatic spot to the World Cup on goal differential. In their pivotal final match of qualifying they played direct rivals Uruguay and won 1-0 to seal their spot in Brazil. They won seven of their eight home games and were undefeated in Quito, as they racked up 25 points to join Argentina, Colombia and Chile in the top four.

What group are they in? The Ecuadorians are in Group E and will fancy their chances of advancing to the last 16 as at least the runner up. Switzerland, France and Honduras stand in their way and bearing in mind this tournament is on their home continent, Ecuador will have plenty of support and feel right at home in Brazil. They need to get off to a fast start vs. Switzerland and ride that momentum into the game vs. Honduras. Having France last could be a tough proposition if they need a win.

Game schedule:

15 June, Brasilia, 12:00 – Switzerland vs. Ecuador

20 June, Curitiba, 18:00 – Honduras vs. Ecudador

25 June, Rio de Janeiro, 16:00 – Ecuador vs. France

Valencia will captain Ecuador at the World Cup.

Star player: Antonio Valencia

The Manchester United winger is the skipper of the Ecuadorian team and will be their leading man in Brazil despite a bad season with the Red Devils. Valencia offers consistency on the flank and can whip in some delicious deliveries for the likes of Felipe Caicedo and Enner Valencia to attack. Antonio played in the 2006 World Cup and shone for Ecuador as a 20-year-old en-route to making the last 16. Full of pace and power, expect Valencia to lead by example.

Manager: Reinaldo Rueda

A coach who is no stranger to coaching national teams, Rueda led Honduras to the 2010 World Cup finals and also helped turn around the fortunes of Colombia. He played a pivotal role in developing strong youth teams for Colombia and since taking over as Ecuador’s boss in 2010 he has forged a strong bond with his players. Rueda is highly thought of on South America and seems to get the best out of his players. Facing his old side Honduras could be an advantage as he knows their side extremely well.

Secret weapon: Team spirit and togetherness

Forged through tragic adversity, Ecuador’s squad are closer than perhaps any side heading to Brazil. Last summer they had to deal with the shock death of forward Christian Benitez as he collapsed whilst playing in the United Arab Emirates. Benitez’s memory lives on and Ecuador’s players were determined to make the World Cup and his honor dream of playing in the 2014 tournament. Expect that emotional bond to be prevalent throughout their squad as they do their utmost to make their fallen brother proud.

Prediction: Ecuador will be hoping to use their knowledge of South America count and adapt to the conditions and style of play in the tournament better than the other three teams. If they qualify from the group that will be deemed as a success, but with a squad full of players that already has one World Cup under their belt for the most part, they will be looking to better their last 16 appearance from ’06.

Memphis jersey biggest seller in Premier League

during the Barclays Premier League match between XXX and XXX on September 26, 2015 in Manchester, United Kingdom.
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Memphis Depay‘s name has been printed on more Premier League jerseys than anybody else.

[ PHOTOS: Must-see Klopp merch ]

According to, the Manchester United winger is the biggest climber on their top 10 list and fans have flocked to have “Memphis” printed on the back of their United jerseys.

The Dutch winger, 21, has had an up-and-down start to life at Old Trafford but that is not detracting fans from having Memphis, the name he prefers, emblazoned on the back of their shirts. Folks from an unnamed city in Tennessee, have you been buying lots of jerseys on the internet? No doubt the number of United fans in that region has sky-rocketed in the last few months. No doubt.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT ]  

Anyway, below is the list of the top 10 players name printed by Kitbag.

Top 10 selling jerseys worldwide

1. Lionel Messi – Barcelona
2. Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid
3. Memphis Depay – Manchester United
4. Bastian Schweinsteiger – Manchester United
5. Eden Hazard – Chelsea
6. Wayne Rooney – Manchester United
7. Neymar – Barcelona
8. Sergio Aguero – Manchester City
9. Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal
10. Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool

New Arsenal contracts on the way for Alexis, Ozil

Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil
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Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are both in line to be handed new contracts by Arsenal.

The attacking duo, who have been in fine form in recent weeks after slow starts to the season, both have current deals which run until 2018 but the Gunners are said to be keen on locking the attacking midfielders down to contract extensions.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT ] 

According to the Daily Mail, Sanchez is set to become Arsenal’s top earner with a new deal on the table in excess of $220,000.

Sanchez is currently being paid $197,000 per week but is not the highest paid player at the Emirates, with Ozil taking that mantle and earning a cool $215,000 a week. Speaking of Ozil, talks over a new deal for him are also being prepared by Arsene Wenger and club officials with the German playmaker finally showing consistency this season, which is his third campaign in the Premier League following his $63 million move from Real Madrid in 2013.

[ MORE: Sanchez, Ozil dazzle in Arsenal’s win vs. United ]

Sanchez, 26, missed most of Arsenal’s preseason after winning the 2015 Copa America with Chile on home soil this summer, but he is now back in his groove and the former Barcelona forward has scored five goals in his last two PL games and seven times in his last four outings for club and country.

Ozil scored his first goal of the season against Manchester United in Arsenal’s recent 3-0 win, as Ozil and Sanchez ripped United’s defense apart in a stunning 19-minute spell at the beginning of the match.

[ MORE: Klopp merchandise you need to see ]

With Theo Walcott locked down to a new long-term contract in the summer, Wenger now looks to have found his go-to front three as Walcott, Sanchez and Ozil possess a superb combination of pace, power and trickery. It’s no surprise to hear reports about new deals being prepared for Sanchez and Ozil, as the duo have that extra bit of class which has seen the Gunners win back-to-back FA Cups and comfortably finish in the top four of the PL.

Now, can they kick on and contend for the title this season? If Sanchez and Ozil stay fit and in-form, there’s no reason why not.