Neither Ecuador or Uruguay can afford a loss on Friday, while a draw would simply extend the drama in CONMEBOL qualifying until the final matchday. The teams both sit on 22 points, in fourth and fifth place, with Ecuador leading on goal differential.
Ecuador looked like they were well on their way to securing their ticket to Brazil heading into the summer, but they've failed to win in their last four qualifiers. They've gone through a tough run of games, with their draws at home against Argentina and away to Bolivia, as well as their loss away to Colombia being perfectly understandable results. However, their loss at home to Peru in June was a massive setback. They've tinkered with their lineup over the last couple of games and don't seem to know what their best XI is.
Uruguay have gone in a different direction in recent matches. They looked like they'd be scrapping for a playoff spot after their loss to Chile back in March, but they've won their last three in a row to get themselves into a position where they control their own World Cup destiny. However, their next two matches -- this one away to Ecuador and Tuesday's game at home against Argentina -- are two of the most difficult on their schedule. In another situation, one or two points from those matches would be acceptable, but their early campaign failings have put them in a tough spot.
The biggest battle in this match should be down the wings. Uruguay will be all but forced into playing two very attacking fullbacks with Martin Caceres out, while Uruguay like to counter quickly down the flanks through their star wingers, Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero. Will Uruguay be able to keep them pinned back, or will Ecuador be able to exploit the space behind La Celeste's fullbacks?
Match date/time: Friday, 5 p.m. ET
Venue: Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa, Quito, Ecuador
TV: beIN Sport en Español (U.S.)
Online: beIN Sport Play (U.S.)