Ecuador’s Copa America adventure will rely on wingplay and unity
Unlikely outsiders at 20/1 to capture the Copa America crown, Ecuador must focus on qualification from a perilous Pool A containing Bolivia, Mexico and hosts Chile, who the Amarillos raise the competition curtain with in Santiago on the 11th of June.
Ecuador were unlucky to fall at the first hurdle in the 2014 World Cup after beating Honduras and holding France to a draw, but coach Reinaldo Rueda still paid the price, amid rumours of camp discontent.
Two players who also received the finger of blame for failure in Brazil were wily wingmen Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero, who both ply their trade in the Premier League.
Having been left out in the cold by interim boss Sixto Vizuete for subsequent post-Brazil friendlies, new tactician Gustavo Quinteros’ appointment has seen the pair finally brought back into the fold.
Famed for his wingplay, Quinteros’ philosophy should certainly suit Ecuador’s strengths, though recent trial run-outs against big-guns Mexico and Argentina ended in two expected but disappointing defeats.
With all eyes upon them in the opening game, and no doubt a fiery atmosphere awaiting, the small South American nation must put to bed rumours of rifts and pull together to put on their best show for travelling fans.
Guarding the Amarillos’ nets will be promising 25-capped keeper Alexander Dominguez, while the full back berths are also strong with experienced skipper Walter Ayovi manning the left, and recently promoted Watford’s Juan Carlos Paredes patrolling the right.
Greece-based midfield man Christian Noboa is a mainstay in Ecuador’s spine, and the composed 30-year-old’s inclusion is crucial in making sure his nation does not get overrun, especially with an attacking 4-4-2 formation in the works.
Having been catapulted onto the international stage rather late at age 29, two-capped midfield shield Osbaldo Lastra could well be given the nod to keep partnering Noboa in the middle of the park.
As for the all-important wing positions, Ecuador are blessed with an abundance of talent out wide, with Swansea City star Montero, Manchester United stalwart Antonia Valencia and Vitesse Arnhem attacker Renato Ibarra all in contention for a spot on the flanks.
Red Devil Antonio Valencia is robust, industrious and ever-reliable, but it is Montero who could bring magic to the Amarillos. The 25-year-old has had an inconsistent debut season for the Swans but has still grabbed a hatful of assists, and returned to favour recently by bagging his first Premier League goal.
View Antonio Valencia’s best bits for Manchester United:
West Ham hitman Enner Valencia is another who has impressed in fits and bursts while adapting to the demands of England’s top tier, contributing five goals and four assists to the Hammers’ cause across all competitions.
Take a peek at what Enner Valencia can offer:
The adaptable attacker, who has hit a prolific haul of 11 strikes in 17 caps for his country, should certainly lead the line for Ecuador, though recent call-up Miler Bolanos will likely compete to partner the forward, who can be formidable on his day.
Preliminary Ecuador squad for 2015 Copa America:
Goalkeepers: Librado Azcona (Independiente del Valle), Maximo Banguera (Barcelona Sporting Club), Alexander Dominguez (LDU Quito), Esteban Dreer (Emelec)
Defenders: Gabriel Achilier (Emelec), Robert Arboleda (Universidad Catolica) Walter Ayovi (Pachuca), Oscar Bagui (Emelec), Frickson Erazo (Gremio), Arturo Mina (Independiente de Valle), John Narvaez (Emelec), Juan Carlos Paredes (Watford), Mario Pineida (Independiente de Valle), Luis Romero (LDU Quito)
Midfielders: Michael Arroyo (Club America), Juan Cazares (Banfield), Jonathan Gonzalez (Universidad de Guadalajara), Fernando Hidalgo (LDU Quito), Renato Ibarra (Vitesse), Osbaldo Lastra (Emelec), Pedro Larrea (LDU Loja), Angel Mena (Emelec), Jefferson Montero (Swansea City), Christian Noboa (PAOK), Pedro Quinonez (Emelec), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
Forwards: Jaime Ayovi (Godoy Cruz), Miller Bolanos (Emelec), Fidel Martinez (Universidad de Guadalajara), Enner Valencia (West Ham United)