QUITO: Ecuador’s Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda on Tuesday dedicated his team’s qualification for the World Cup finals to Christian Benitez, the former Birmingham striker who died in July.
A tearful Rueda praised his side for overcoming the shock loss of Benitez, who died of heart failure just weeks after joining Qatari club Al Jaish.
Crowds in the capital Quito also chanted “Chucho, Chucho” – the 27-year-old’s nickname – as they turned out to celebrate bagging the fourth and final automatic South American qualifying spot.
A 2-1 loss to Chile in Santiago still saw the Ecuadorans push two-time world champions Uruguay into a play-off with Jordan on goal difference.
President Rafael Correa also praised Benitez during a series of tributes to the squad on Twitter.