Christian Noboa is a player who brings balance to the Ecuador midfield. Solid in defence and a fine passer of the ball, the Dynamo Moscow man is a vital asset for coach Reinaldo Rueda and is sure to have a big say in Thursday’s crunch meeting with France at the Maracana – a game that will determine La Tri’s fate at Brazil 2014.
“It’s like a final for us and we’re hoping to win it and make our people happy,” Noboa told FIFA.com, looking ahead to Ecuador’s final match in Group E. “We can beat France. That’s why we’re here at the World Cup, because every team is capable of beating anyone else. We’ve seen that in the other games, and there isn’t much difference between sides now.
“France are France though, and we have to be focused on our game. It’s going to be tough and there’s a place in the last 16 at stake.”
Known as El Zar, Noboa added: “We have to win to go through and it’s all or nothing for us. We have to show a lot of the things we showed against Honduras, such as our attitude and concentration. The strategy needs to be different, though, as no two games are the same and every team has their own way of playing. Even so, we have to show the same desire and play the same way.”
La Tri’s 2-1 defeat of Honduras, which kept their qualification hopes alive, was much celebrated by the Ecuadorians, as Noboa explained: “We were under so much pressure and we knew it was a matter of life or death. We had to win to keep our hopes alive, and when the game was over we were so happy at getting the three points and giving our country something to celebrate.”
We want to make the fans happy. They’ve always supported us and they need a win
Discussing how the FIFA World Cup™ has gone for him on a personal level, Noboa said: “It’s been very good and I’ve been feeling better with each game. This is my first World Cup and there are always things to learn. I’ve felt really good though, and I hope I feel just as good for the France game. And if I can do my job better, then everything will be better for me and my team.”
Ecuador’s best performance in the world finals came at Germany 2006, when they reached the Round of 16, the benchmark for Rueda’s team in Brazil.
“Our goal is to get beyond the group phase and match what we did in 2006,” explained Noboa. “We want to make the fans happy. They’ve always supported us and they need a win. We’ve got a good side but it’s not going to be easy. We’ll do what we did against Honduras and give it our best shot. Like I said before – this is a life-or-death game for us.”
Ecuador’s hero against the Hondurans was Enner Valencia, who scored twice in that game to take his tournament tally to three goals in two games. Giving his view on a player who has the whole world sitting up and taking notice of him, Noboa said: “We know him well. He’s a very quiet person and very shy. We tell him jokes and try to make him laugh, but it’s not easy because he’s very reserved.
"He’s still a great player. He tries his hardest in every training session and he’s always looking to improve. He’s doing a great job and we have every confidence in our front line thanks to him.”
Summing up the challenging assignment ahead of the South Americans, Noboa said: “We can’t have one eye on the other match, which is played at the same time as ours. We can’t sit and wait to see how things go. The equation is a simple one for us and it’s entirely in our hands. If we win, we’re through.”