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Who: México vs. Ecuador
What: International Friendly
When: 7 p.m. PT/ 8 p.m. MST/ 10 p.m ET, Wednesday, November 12
Where: Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona

By César García

The México National team will face their similar side of Ecuador in a friendly this Wednesday, in what will be their penultimate match of the year. 

The friendly will mainly serve both sides to observe new players ahead of their qualification campaigns. 

For el Tri, it offers an opportunity for Nery Castillo and other unheralded players to win a spot on the roster for the crucial World Cup qualifier on November 19 against Honduras, in San Pedro Sula.

With only a week before the do-or-die qualifying match at Honduras, this friendly match will mainly serve the purpose of fulfilling FMF contractual obligations and give México coach Sven-Göran Eriksson a chance to observe some players that may appear on Friday’s call-up list for the crucial qualifier.

This will be the seventh match for the Swede at the helm of el Tri, with a record of three victories, one draw and two defeats. 

Under his short term the main base of his formation includes European-based players, who were unavailable due to the match not being on the FIFA calendar.  The squad is comprised by a majority of Mexican league players, the only exception is Nery Castillo.

The only domestic players that have played an integral in qualification are Fernando Arce of Santos Laguna and Cruz Azul’s Gerardo Torrado. The remainder of the unheralded players will simply try to impress and instill confidence in Eriksson to be considered for upcoming National team activity.

For some of the domestic players this will be their second call-up in the Eriksson era for a friendly, such is the case of talented midfielder Antonio Naelson ‘Sinha,’ who due to injuries has yet to participate in qualification.  

The Brazilian-Mexican faces the tightest scrutiny by Eriksson, whose style of play in the midfield does not appear to favor the one-touch approach of the European coach.  However, ‘Sinha’ is a player that effectively handles and distributes the ball, controls the tempo of the match and generates attacking options.  If the last three matches for el Tri say anything, is that a player with the characteristics of ‘Sinha’ is greatly needed in the México midfield.

An attraction of the friendly is the confirmed start of Manchester City forward Nery Castillo, who arrived with anticipation to México to train with Chivas and recover his match fitness.  This friendly will serve as a test for the talented forward to see how much inactivity has affected his game and prove his quality to be considered for the next qualifier.

América goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, also received the nod to start and the opportunity to demonstrate that he is ready to defend the México goal in the near future.

The Ecuadorean National team will not have any activity until 2009, when CONMEBOL qualification resumes.  

With many of the principal figures absent, the friendly allows coach Sixto Vizuete to observe some new players who have performed and stand out in the local championship, which he believes “deserve to be taken into account for these types of matches.”

In the defense, Giovanny Nazareno and Luis Checa from Deportivo Quito, will most likely get their opportunity and will be observed for consideration in upcoming qualification matches.

This second-string Ecuador side also boasts a solid and dangerous attack, made up of midfield players with participation in the current South American qualifiers, such as Fabricio Guevara and Fernando Hidalgo of Barcelona SC, and Luis Bolaños of Liga de Quito.

With the absence of Santos Laguna striker, Christian Benítez, who requested not to be called-up, the doors are open for Barcelona SC forward Pablo Palacios, to demonstrate that he can be  a starter in Ecuador’s World Cup qualification campaign.

Ecuador is currently out of World Cup contention, in the sixth spot with only 12 points out of ten matches disputed in CONMEBOL qualification. In their two most recent matches, they suffered a 3-1 away defeat at Venezuela and before that earned a 1-0 victory against Chile.

With nothing at stake, Ecuador will use the match to observe new players ahead of the continuation of their qualification campaign next March. 

While with the European-base out of the formation, domestic México players will see this as an opportunity to validate their claim to be included on the final roster for Honduras.  

An intense and hard fought encounter is anticipated, but with few days of work, individualities will mark the difference and could favor el Tri if inactivity has not affected Nery Castillo.

México 1 - 1 Ecuador

César García covers México for