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Saturday June 21, 2014 MYT 9:42:04 AM
Saturday June 21, 2014 MYT 9:42:04 AM
by keith weir
CURITIBA Brazil (Reuters) - Enner Valencia struck twice to give Ecuador a 2-1 World Cup win over Honduras on Friday and raise their hopes of making the last 16, leaving the Hondurans with only a first finals goal since 1982 as consolation.
France top group E with six points and a healthy goal difference while Ecuador and Switzerland each have three points. Honduras have lost twice and are facing likely elimination.
Honduras, who have yet to win a World Cup game in eight attempts, did at least have the satisfaction of ending that 32-year barren run when striker Carlo Costly drove home after 31 minutes to put them 1-0 up.
However, striker Enner Valencia, no relation to the more famous Ecuador captain Antonio Valencia, is making a name for himself at this tournament and put his team level three minutes later.
Valencia slid in at the far post after a shot from defender Juan Carlos Paredes was deflected across the face of goal.
Honduras thought they had taken the lead again on the stroke of halftime. Costly headed against the bar and his fellow striker Jerry Bengtson bundled the rebound over the line but his effort was rightly ruled out for handball by Australian referee Benjamin Williams.
Valencia sealed an entertaining game with a downward header from a freekick after 65 minutes, his third goal of the tournament to the delight of thousands of yellow-shirted Ecuadorans in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba.
Valencia, who spurned a clear chance when the game was goalless, had the ball in the net again in stoppage time but referee Williams had blown for a foul and denied him a hat-trick.
The victory puts Ecuador back in with a chance of progressing after their 2-1 defeat to Switzerland in their first game.
Ecuador are coached by Reinaldo Rueda, who was in charge of Honduras when they played in the 2010 World Cup and found the reunion a bittersweet occasion.
"The game went as predicted. I think we controlled Honduras well," said Rueda, a Colombian.
"For me it is a mix of emotions, the professional and the personal. To play against these players, two teams with a lot of character," he added.
His fellow Colombian Luis Fernando Suarez is now coaching Honduras, having taken Ecuador to the second round of the tournament in 2006, their best performance.
Suarez said that Honduras would keep fighting for survival in their final group game against Switzerland in the heat of Manaus on Wednesday.
"If we are eliminated, we will leave after giving everything," he said.
The coach took no solace from Costly's goal which ensured that Honduras just avoided breaking Bolivia's unwanted record run of 517 minutes without a World Cup goal.
"The first goal in 32 years? It's not worth talking about," Suarez told a news conference.
"We lost and that's the only thing that matters," he said. Defeat follows a 3-0 loss to France in their opener.
Ecuador now face the rampant French in their last group game. France put on an impressive display to beat Switzerland 5-2 earlier on Friday.
"The France game is going to be very difficult. We have to focus on our game and hope we get a positive result," said Rueda.
(Writing by Keith Weir, Editing by Nigel Hunt)
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