Soccer-World-Ecuador coach Rueda is unlikely hero in two nations

QUITO, April 28 (Reuters) - Reinaldo Rueda became a national hero in Honduras when he led them to the 2010 World Cup and has repeated the trick four years later with Ecuador. Like Hernan Dario Gomez and Luis Fernando Suarez, the coaches who led Ecuador at their only two previous World Cup appearances, the softly spoken and youthful-looking 57-year-old is from neighbouring Colombia. Rueda, who has been in charge of the Andean side since 2010, was under severe pressure after his team finished bottom of their group in the 2011 Copa America. However, he clung on to his job on the back of some important wins in Quito and rebuilt the side with limited resources. Rueda was not a professional player himself, instead completing a degree in physical education firstly in his hometown of Cali before going on to complete a masters at the University of Cologne while attending UEFA and FIFA coaching courses. He dipped his feet into the turbulent waters of Colombian club football during the 1990s when he had stints with Cortulua, Deportivo Cali and Independiente Medellin, with moderate success. However, he found his niche when he began working as a youth team coach with the Colombian Football Federation, making his mark when he led them to third at the world under-20 championships in the United Arab Emirates in 2003. The following year, he was promoted to the senior side, although it was a rather thankless task as he took over after they had taken only one point from four games in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers. As he would do later with Honduras and Ecuador, Rueda rebuilt the team and put them back on track. They came within a point of qualifying for Germany, but it was enough to get him noticed. The following year he took on the challenge of coaching Honduras, eventually leading them to only their second World Cup appearance. Studious and meticulous and something of a technocrat, he tends to keep a low profile and would make an unlikely hero in one country, let alone two. (Reporting by Brian Homewood in Berne, editing by Stephen Wood and Mike Collett)