Following a victory last time out, Uruguay will look to strengthen their World Cup Qualifying bid on Thursday, when they welcome Ecuador to Montevido.
La Celeste comfortably defeated Bolivia on Sunday to move within a single point of Thursday’s visitors, who drew 0-0 with Chile to cling on to third spot in the qualifying group.
While Uruguay started the World Cup Qualifying campaign in relatively impressive fashion, picking up a 2-1 win over Chile and a 3-0 victory against Colombia either side of a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Ecuador, they headed into this summer’s Copa America on the back of a 2-0 loss to Brazil and disappointing draws with Paraguay and Venezuela.
Oscar Tabarez’s men then failed to impress at the continental tournament, only picking up wins over Bolivia and Paraguay in the group stage to progress in second spot.
La Celeste then played out a goalless draw in their quarter-final clash with Colombia, but fell short in a penalty shootout to make an early exit in the first knockout round.
Upon their return to qualifying action in September, Uruguay’s struggle for form continued as they were forced to settle for a point against Peru, with Giorgian de Arrascaeta drawing them level on the half-hour mark after Renato Tapia’s opener for their opponents.
Tabarez’s side certainly showed positive signs last time out though, as Da Arrascaeta again starred in a 4-2 victory over Bolivia, netting a brace alongside goals from Federico Valverde and Agustin Alvarez, while Marcelo Moreno got on the scoresheet twice for La Verde, including a late consolation goal.
With that victory seeing them establish themselves in the top four, La Celeste will be keen to build consistency with a second straight victory that would see them leapfrog their opponents, who handed them a 4-2 defeat earlier in the campaign.
After suffering narrow 1-0 defeat to Argentina in their opening qualifying game last year, Ecuador bounced back in style as Michael Estrada hit a brace alongside goals from Moises Caicedo and Gonzalo Plata to topple Thursday’s opponents.
They built on that with a 3-2 away win over Bolivia and a 6-1 thrashing of Colombia, but would then head into the Copa America on the back of defeats at the hands of Brazil and Peru, giving their World Cup Qualification hopes a hit.
Despite failing to pick up a victory in the continental competition, Ecuador progressed to the quarter-finals with three points from their four group games, including an impressive 1-1 draw with pre-tournament favourites Brazil, but they were handed a 3-0 defeat by eventual winners Argentina when they met in the knockout stage.
Upon their return to qualifying action, La Tricolor bounced back to winning ways, as Felix Torres and Estrada hit late goals to see them defeat Paraguay 2-0 on home turf.
They built on that with another positive result last time out, playing out a goalless draw with Chile to keep hold of third spot with an impressive tally of 13 points from their first eight outings.
With the top four nations earning automatic progression to next year’s World Cup, Gustavo Alfaro will be desperate for his side to pick up a positive result to fend off the chasing pack, as they look to reach the tournament in Qatar after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Uruguay World Cup Qualifying – South America form:
Uruguay form (all competitions):
Ecuador World Cup Qualifying – South America form:
Ecuador form (all competitions):
We say: Uruguay 2-1 Ecuador
Uruguay’s win last time out could provide plenty of positivity after their struggles to find consistency, While Ecuador have majorly impressed in the World Cup Qualifying campaign so far and will be desperate to remain ahead of La Celeste.
Ultimately, we see Tabarez’s men having enough quality, even without Suarez and Cavani, to break down Ecuador’s resilient back line, with De Arrascaeta potentially inspiring his nation to another crucial win in their bid to reach next year’s World Cup.