Sunday, 24 July 2011

Copa América review: ECUADOR

Continuing the series, still with the teams eliminated in the first stage, let's take a look at ECUADOR.

Just one point and two goals from three games represents a rather disappointing return for a side that qualified for both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, but Ecuador went in to this tournament with fairly reduced expectations anyway. When speaking of Ecuador's present team in relation to the World Cup qualifying-teams, it is important to remember how huge an achievement that was at the time.

Ecuador traditionally had the reputation of being 'whipping boys' in the CONMEBOL section and could never seem to build a side strong enough to reach anywhere near World Cup qualification. An important change came in 1996 with the restructuring of CONMEBOL's World Cup qualifying system, moving to a round-robin format where every team would play each other home and away. This meant that the team played more competitive games, resulting in a more unified squad.

Currently managed by Colombian coach Reginaldo Rueda - the man who took Honduras to the 2010 World Cup - they appear to have assembled a decent squad with promising home-based players and some top talent with European pedigree. Manchester United's Antonio Valencia - the first Ecuadorian to play in a Champions League final - is the team's big name, but Rubin Kazan's Christian Noboa is also gaining notoriety on the European scene.

On the pitch, Rueda opts for a 4-4-2 shape with lots of movement amongst the midfield quarter. Cristian "Chucho" Benítez plays an energetic role up front, supporting centre forward Felipe Caicedo and shuttling back and forward into midfield. In their first game against Paraguay, Ecuador played fairly well and caused a great deal of problems for their opponents, but the game still finished 0x0.

The first half of that match saw Paraguay well in control, but an injury to Antonio Valencia forced Ecuador into making a half-time change which actually tipped the balance in their favour. Rueda brought on San Luís' exciting winger Michael Arroyo and played him on the left side, switching Édison Méndez to the right. The aggression of Arroyo managed to pin back Paraguay's enthusiastic right back Iván Piris, which meant that Ecuador's left back - team captain Walter Ayoví - could start to make an impact on the match.
Illustration of the tactical change in the second half (CLICK IMAGE TO PLAY ANIMATION)
In their second match against Venezuela, the story was largely the same. The match was tight and Ecuador again failed to find the net. Near the end Venezuela scored the winning goal, which was probably deserved considering how the match played out.

In contrast to their first two matches which were tight and low scoring, Ecuador's final group game against Brazil was wide open and had plenty of goals, finishing 4x2 to the Seleção. Rueda made one change from the side that played the second half against Paraguay and started against Venezuela, with defensive midfielder Oswaldo Minda coming in to replace Segundo Castillo.

Ecuador knew they had to win the match to qualify, so they pushed forward a lot more and managed to score twice against a poor Brazil defence. However on the other end of the field, Ecuador stood off Brazil far too much, giving them space and inviting their creative players to play.

All things considered, this was still an intensely disappointing tournament from Ecuador. With their dominant second half performance against Paraguay they were very disappointed not to come away with the win. Against Venezuela they fell to a late goal, and against Brazil they did very little to stop the strong attack of the five-time world champions.

There were some good performances from certain players, particularly Arroyo on the wings, and it appears that the forward pairing of Felipe Caicedo and Chucho Benítez are forming a great understanding. Despite this, it still seems like Rueda and his team have their work cut out to try and construct a team to rival the squads of 2002 and 2006.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review of the recent game of Ecuador. I actually watched that game from that site. They provides live in play betting there too. It's much exciting that you can bet at the same time.

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