WORLD CUP: Players to watch

Franklin Salas (Ecuador)

Salas has established himself as the most consistent striker at one of the country’s top clubs, Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito. The player known in Ecuador as El Mago (“The Wizard”) has emerged as a force in the national side in the absence of Agustín Delgado — the country’s top scorer en-route to the FIFA World Cup finals last time. Salas first came to prominence on the international stage during the 2004 Olympic qualifiers in Chile. Despite his side’s failure to secure the berths for Athens, he earned rave reviews. Since his breakthrough into the full national team this year, he has featured regularly in the side, notching up 12 caps.

Christian Lara (Ecuador)

Being able to seize the moment means being prepared, and as Christian Lara can testify, that takes years of sacrifice and dedication. Ecuador was facing Argentina in a qualifier, and someone was needed to fill the shoes of the injured Edison Mendez. Coach Luis Suarez decided to put his faith in the gifted attacking midfielder. Everything went so well, in fact, Lara scored the first goal and set up another in their 2-0 win. As Suarez said after the victory: “Lara was just the catalyst we needed. He came on at the right time and we started mixing our play up a little more.” Christian Rolando Lara Anangono, as he says himself, had the good fortune “to be born with a gift for football.”