Deportivo Quito rounded off the weeks international fixtures with a 2 – 1 home win against Aurora of Bolivia. Although Deportivo controlled much of the game they may yet rue the away goal conceded in the 2nd half. Checa and Lorca scored a quick double on 37 and 38 minutes to them up nicely for the 2nd half however Da Silva claimed a vital goal back for Aurora in 67 minutes. At 2 – 1 the tie is still delicately poised.
Yesterday Liga de Loja lost 0 – 1 to Nacional of Uruguay leaving them with an uphill battle in Montevideo but the Guayaquil teams fared better with Barcelona sealing a fine no-score draw away to Cobreload of Chile while Emelec went one better with a 1 – 0 win away to Olympia of Paraguay.
In other news veteran hitman Ivan Kaviedes has been arrested and detained for 4 days after being pulled over by the police and found to be several times over the limit. To make things worse he apparently resisted arrest and clouted the arresting officer.
Kaviedes, who currently plays for 3rd division Aucas,has had a successful and controversial career. Many will remember him from his spider-man mask celebration in 2006 World Cup.
The draw for the champions league draw has just been made with Group D looking like the “Group of Death”.
After an underwhelming maiden tournament last year Roberto Mancini will be hoping to qualify for the next stage. However with Real Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund (all champions of their respective countries) in their group it will be a hard task to complete.
Celtic could of got it easier with Barcelona and Benfica but they can hold realistic ambitions of a 3rd place and Europa league spot along with Spartak Moscow. Their away form seems to be improving and they are a match for any at Celtic Park.
Holders Chelsea got Juventus,Shakhtar Donetsk and newcomers FC Nordsjaelland.
Arsenal face trips to Schalke, Olympiakos, Montpellier and Man Utd will play Braga, Galatasaray, CFR Cluj in Group H.
Group A: Porto, Dynamo Kiev, Paris St Germain, Dinamo Zagreb.
Group B: Arsenal, Schalke, Olympiakos, Montpellier.
Group C: AC Milan, Zenit St Petersburg, Anderlecht, Malaga.
Group D: Real Madrid, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund.
Group E: Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, FC Nordsjaelland.
Group F: Bayern Munich, Valencia, Lille, BATE Borisov.
Group G: Barcelona, Benfica, Spartak Moscow, Celtic.
Group H: Manchester United, Braga, Galatasaray, CFR Cluj.
Things are warming up nicely for next weeks World Cup qualifier against Bolivia in the Atahaulpa stadium. Despite the game being at 4pm on Friday afternoon and the capacity of the stadium being decreased to 35,000 the atmosphere should be electric. Alike many South American cities, Quito will come to a stand-still next Friday with many Ecuadorians sporting their bright,yellow shirts in support of “El Tri”.
The Olympics went by largely without a much notice(apart from Alex Quinonez).Football is where the real interest lies.
On Monday Ecuador coach, Reinaldo Rueda named his squad of 24 to face Bolivia and Uruguay. The one major surprise was the re-inclusion of Felipe Caicedo (Lokomotiv Moscow) who has been out of the international picture since 2011. The squad has a core of home based players but with extra quality from Mexico’s Primeria Division and Europe.
Christian “Chucho” Benitez is on fire for Club America and is normally Ecuador’s main goal threat however he will be suspended for the Bolivia game after picking up a yellow card against Colombia. This is a severe problem for Ecuador as Benitez is their attacking spear and the focal point for the team. Usually Valencia, Montero or Quinonez will bomb down the wings and cross for the physical Benitez to muscle his way into a goal-scoring chance, someone else will now have to step in.
ECUADOR SQUAD FOR GAMES AGAINST BOLIVIA AND URUGUAY
DOMINGUEZ, (LIGA DE QUITO)
BONE, (DEPORTIVO QUITO)
PAREDES, (DEPORTIVO QUITO)
AYOVI, (MONTERREY, MÉXICO)
CALDERON, (LIGA DE QUITO)
GUAGUA, (ATLANTE , MÉXICO)
CASTILLO, (PACHUCA , MÉXICO)
MINDA, (CHIVAS, USA)
QUIÑONEZ, (EL NACIONAL)
SARITAMA, (DEPORTIVO QUITO)
VALENCIA, (MANCHESTER UNITED )
MONTERO, (MORELIA , MÉXICO)
ROJAS, JOAO (MORELIA , MÉXICO)
AYOVI, (AL NASSR,SAUDI ARABI)
CAICEDO, (LOKOMOTIV ,RUSSIA)
IBARRA, (VITESSE, HOLLAND)
Regardless Ecuador will have to play better than they did against Colombia. Although they scrambled to a 1 – 0 win in July this was mainly due to Colombia being so disappointing. Anything less than a win will hamper their qualification chances and put them back in the 5th place mix, especially with a tough trip to Montevideo three days later.
Bolivia are coming off a fine win against Paraguay and as fellow Andeans will not be affected by the altitude. They languish in 7th position and need points to jump-start their campaign.
The squad will not assemble until Thursday after the Ecuadorian teams have completed their 1st ties of the Copa Sudamericana. All teams progressed after tricky first round ties but the competition steps up a level with the inclusion of a higher level of opposition. Despite this each team should be relatively confident of passing into the next round.
|Tuesday, August 28 – 17:15|
|Tuesday, August 28 – 19:45|
|Wednesday, August 29 – 17:15|
|Liga de Loja||vs||Nacional (Uruguay)|
|Thursday, August 30 – 17:15|
|Deportivo Quito||vs||Aurora (Bolivia)|
|Liga de Loja||1 – 2||Liga de Quito|
|Deportivo Cuenca||1 – 2||Barcelona|
|Macará||2 – 0||Técnico Universitario|
|Emelec||1 – 0||Olmedo|
|Independiente del Valle||1 – 0||Manta F.C.|
The Quito derby will be played later because of Deportivo’s involvement in the Copa Sudamericana
|El Nacional||vs||Deportivo Quito|
|5.||Liga de Quito||
|11.||Liga de Loja||
The Estadio Olimipico Atahaulpa has seen better days and more than deserving of a lick of paint and a general spruce up. If its character you want then Ecuador’s national stadium has it in spades but if its comfort and safety then your better to head to the Casa Blanca, home of Liga de Quito.
I have only been in the Atahaulpa once when it has been full, and i mean full to bursting point. Usually it’s league inhabitants: Deportivo Quito, El Nacional and Universidad Catolica barely attract a 3rd of the stadium.
In July’s World Cup qualifier versus Colombia there was not a free seat in the house. Thousands more than the official capacity of 40,948 were rammed into the crumbling old amphitheater and with hundreds of people sitting on the stairwells and down the aisles it was dangerous in the extreme. Also with a deep pit below and between the fans and pitch it was not hard to imagine the possibility of disaster.
That being said the atmosphere was amazing even when purchasing a beer or visiting the toilet entailed a slalom course of hell. It was probably as close as you can get to 1980’s British match experience. The likes of which we will never see or feel again.
The stadium was opened in 1951 and it’s hard to believe it has changed much in the years since. It is a big concrete block of a structure which looks like the home of a Soviet Bloc team or nation. Unless you pay extra for the covered Palcos area you will be left open to the weather, its beating sun or sometimes torrential rain and similarly the Palcos/Tribuna are is the only place with seats.
When you are paying only $6-7 dollars for a normal match-day ticket a seat could be viewed as a luxury but at $25 for the international matches it is the least you could expect. With this in mind the Ecuadorian Football Federation has decided to seat the whole of the stadium at the cost of $17 million.
The refurbishment will decrease the overall capacity but as the security at capacity games seems to be lax in the extreme it will likely not make a difference.
However as the Ecuadorian Football federation invest in their national stadium they also face the possibility of losing two of their main tenants. Both El Nacional and Deportivo Quito have released plans for their new stadiums and while these have been protracted ambitions it seems they have real pretensions to fly from the national nest.
While Deportivo Quito’s plans have been on going for a a few years El Nacional have taken the next step and rewarded the construction contract to a Mexican company. Both teams however will be hoping a change of venue will inspire their teams into an unprecedented era of success alike their city neighbours Liga de Quito who went on to win the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana post flit.
Craig Levein is currently riding a small wave of popularity after last week’s 3 -1 of Australia but for many Scotland supporters the jury is well and truly out in regards to his tenure as coach of the national team.
Last year’s Euro 2012 qualification campaign was dreadful in the extreme. Although we managed to push it to the last day Scotland only managed to record 2 wins against the mighty Liechtenstein, a home win and away draw against Lithuania and a home draw against the Czech Republic. Added to this we had the national embarrassment of playing against the Czech Republic with no strikers and his infamous ultra-defensive 4–6–0.
The friendly games have been only slightly more successful with credible wins against Denmark, Northern Ireland and Australia. But with equally soul destroying humpings against the USA and Sweden his record is mixed at best: Played – 20, Won – 10, Drawn – 3 and Lost – 7.
On his current record it is hard to understand why the SFA (Scottish Football Association) had the confidence to award him with a five and a half year deal.
His win percentage is 50 % in all games is also reflected in his competitive ratio of Played 8, Won 3, Drawn 2 and lost 3.
However it is not the underwhelming statistics that created doubt in the Scotland supporters minds but more his poor handling of several player problems in his short tenure.
Last week it was his erratic decisions in regards to Rangers players Lee Wallace and Ian Black which created a tsunami of criticism and forced grudging explanations from Levein and his right hand man Peter Houston. Levein then countered the media based assessments by banning the Daily Record from the following match press conference. An act which could be viewed as retaliatory broadside or a childish swipe.
All this pales into significance compared to the problem of Steven Fletcher and his exclusion from the national team. The ambiguity surrounding the Wolves strikers omission form recent squads is frustrating and confusing to the Scotland fans. Recent transfer speculation has seen Fletcher being valued at up to £15 million, an astronomical amount for a Scotland player even with consideration of the accepted British player premiums. Fletcher is a quality striker in the English Premier League and it could be argued the best British striker in a top 3 European league. Scotland can ill afford to discount such an asset.
The coach/player stand off seems to have been created from the exchange of several text messages (how 2006) in regards to previous team exclusion and involvement. Whatever happened in the past, now we have to grown men unable to pick up the phone; or even text to give the slightest inclination their feelings or concerns. Maybe neither want to lose face; maybe one or both need to grow up.
With the possibility of a potent attack of Steven Fletcher and Jordan Rhodes backed up with an English based squad of more than competent players, Scotland have team of great potential. The likes of which we have not seen since the late 90’s. Unlike Burley or Vogts before Levein cannot use the old of excuse of player quality as although his team is not top quality they better than previous squads.
The World Cup qualification draw was not kind to Scotland which was not surprising considering our recent tumble down the rankings. On paper Croatia and Serbia are better teams with more skillful individuals but with a little luck and a capability to score goals we can realistically hope to win some points, especially at home.
Belgium maybe a bridge to far and they should top the group in a similar fashion to Spain in the last group. With players like Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Marouane Fellaini and Kevin De Bruyne its hard to look past the Belgians.
In truth Wales and Macedonia are of a similar level to Scotland and if we cannot take points against these teams then all is probably lost. The first two games are both at home against Serbia then Macedonia and realistically if we do not win both of these games we can forget qualification and dispose of Levein at the same time.
However if Levein can smooth over his teething problems and realise his SFA considered potential he will be given the opportunity push for our first successful qualification since 1988.
However in order to this he must have the Steven Fletcher in attack and a country 100% behind him neither of which he has right now.
After their 5-1 humbling against the USA post-season the last thing the Scotland players needed was another confidence sapping, friendly defeat. Fortunately, Craig Levien’s men rallied to the cause and beat an Australian team placed far higher in the FIFA rankings.
Despite going behind to a fine Bresciano strike and losing Alan McGregor to a freak injury early on Scotland battled back to record an impressive 3 – 1 home win and set themselves up nicely for the coming World Cup qualifiers. Jordan Rhodes and Ross McCormack grabbed fine goals either side of a Davidson own goal to secure a rare friendly home win at Easter Road, Edinburgh.
The performance of Jordan Rhodes was particularly pleasing considering it was only his first start in the dark blue. He expertly headed a Danny Fox cross past the Ozzie keeper to open his international tally and hastled the defence throughout his game. With Kenny Miller in the twilight of his career and playing in the MLS, Rhodes may be used as Scotland’s main striker, although Jamie Mackie and Craig Mackail Smith may have something to say about that.
Ross McCormack did well to weave into the Australian box then dispatch his goal and there were impressive displays for Danny Fox, Charlie Adam and Alan Hutton.
That being said there were some worrying defensive lapses by Scotland against the off-colour Socceroo’s and these mistakes will be more ruthlessly punished in the qualifiers.
After last year’s claims of a Scottish mafia ruling the management class of the English Premier League this year looks less impressive. This has been mainly due to the sacking of Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool) and Alex McLeish (Aston Villa) along with the demotion of Steve Kean (Blackburn) and Owen Coyle (Bolton), and while Steve Clarke has picked a new job at West Brom and Paul Lambert has moved to Aston Villa it leaves Scotland with only 4 EPL manager/coach representatives;
Aston Villa – Paul Lambert
Everton – David Moyes
Man United – Alex Ferguson
West Brom – Steve Clark
In regards to players it looks a little healthier than years before although most of the Scots play for teams that shall probably be fighting against relegation in 2012/13. With the transfer window still wide open many some players may move into the EPL while others could drop down to the championship etc.
Disappointingly, there are no Scots in the top 6 first teams apart from Darren Fletcher who is currently side-lined with a chronic, long-term illness. It is looking likely that Charlie Adam will move away from Anfield and similarly it remains to be seen If Danny Wilson can remain at Liverpool.
Steven Naismith chose to release himself from the new-co Rangers and secured a contract with Everton while Steven Whittaker did the same with Norwich. As Internationals and with Champions League experience behind them both should cope with the higher level in the EPL.
Robert Snodgrass (Leeds to Norwich) and Frazer Fyvie (Aberdeen to Wigan) have transferred up a level while Danny Fox and Alex Pearce benefit from promotion.
Alan Hutton, Barry Bannan (Aston Villa)
Charlie Adam, Danny Wilson (Liverpool)
Darren Fletcher (Man United)
Danny Fox (Southampton)
Alex Pearce (Reading)
Russell Martin, Steven Whittaker, Robert Snodgrass, Simon Lapin (Norwich City)
Gary Caldwell, Shaun Maloney, James McArthur, Frazer Fyvie (Wigan Athletic)
Graham Dorrans, Scott Allan, James Morrison (West Brom)
Phillip Bardsley (Sunderland)
Jamie Mackie (QPR)
Steven Naismith (Everton)
Christophe Berra and Steven Fletcher are looking to move on from demoted Wolves and should find an EPL club in the coming weeks however Craig Gordon and James McFadden are free agents and it remains to be seen if they can find a club at EPL level.
Jordan Rhodes has been attracting interest from various EPL clubs after his recent high scoring but he may choose to stay at Huddersfield for another year.
Many may argue whether the EPL is better than La Liga or Bundesliga but it is streets ahead of the SPL and the Championship from where most of the Scottish national team has previously been chosen.
Although we have no superstars akin to Greame Souness, Kenny Dalglish or Gordon Strachan anymore (or even any John Collins, Ally McCoists, Craig Burleys or Paul Lamberts) any greater EPL influence should benefit the national team.
Like many Scottish fans I still have my doubts about coach/manager Craig Levein. His handling of the recent Ian Black/Lee Wallace controversy has not been handled well and his relationship with tabloid media is beginning to sour.
The Levein/Houston partnership has not borne much success so far and with such a hard qualifying group (Group A: Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, SCOTLAND, Macedonia, Wales) I fear that this pair are not up to the task.
I hope I am proved wrong and pleasantly surprised.
This morning much of Ecuador woke up to the news that their Government had granted asylum to Julian Assange, the founder of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks. The Australian has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for two months claiming to be the victim of a political witch hunt and unwarranted persecution.
By the end of today they will probably be burning Union Jacks (the same ones the British Embassy were handing out in Olympic based stunts last month) and shredding pictures of David Beckham and Mr Bean on the streets of Quito as the local populace are revved into a state of national hysteria by the partisan media sources.
Either that or the Ecuadorians will probably realise it is another diplomatic storm in a teacup and pay it the little attention that it deserves.
For those of the proper persuasion and less susceptible to media propaganda and provocation the real news will be Ecuador’s fine 3 – 0 win over Chile in yesterday’s friendly international.
The game was played in Citi Field, New York home of the famous baseball team, the New York Mets. A mainly Ecuadorian crowd of 31,901 braved the torrential rain to cheer on their idols and watch Narciso Mina, Jaime Ayovi and Jefferson Montero score and record a fine win.
Chile fielded a depleted team with notable absentees being star midfielder Arturo Vidal (Juventus) and defender Osvaldo González (Universidad de Chile) but still with Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona) and Eduardo Vargas (Napoli) in their starting 11. As current leaders of the CONMEBAL World Cup qualification table they were favourites to win the match.
Ecuador fielded a strong side consisting mainly of Ecuadorian Serie A based players and their talisman and superstar Antonio Valencia (Manchester United). Cristain Noboa (Dynamo Moscow) was injured but Cristian Bentitez (Club America) started the game.
In reality the game was over before it had really started with Ecuador coming bursting out of the traps to take a 2-0 lead before 14 minutes had passed. With little deference to the “friendly” nature of the match “El Tri” decided to impose their athletic superiority from the outset and bullied the slighter Chileans.
As per usual Ecuador’s attacking impetus flowed through Antonio Valencia on the right wing. Twice in succession his runs were left unchecked leaving him to lay-on chances that were converted by Narciso Mina (10′) and Jaime Ayovi (14′). The goals were similar in nature: low slide rule passes to the centre of the box, leaving the Chilean defence slow and open and the goalkeeper Miguel Pinto helpless.
The Ecuadorians continued to attack for the remainder of the half and they missed several chances to seal the win with a conclusive 3rd goal. At times the play reached boiling point with late challenges and sliding tackles aplenty on the wet and slippery pitch.
As the rain abated in the 2nd half Chile came more into the game but it was Ecuador who sealed the win in 68 minutes through Jefferson Montero (Morelia, MX). Ecuador’s keeper Dominguez thumped a high ball over every player into the Chilean box confusing the Chilean defence into inaction. The ball bounced to Montero who easily headed over a scrambling Pinto, ending the game as a contest.
The win is a fine confidence booster for Ecuador going into their qualifiers next against Bolivia at home then Uruguay away. Lying in 4rth position Ecuador need to pick up points if they have any realistic pretensions of attending Brazil 2014, a fact which is not lost on national coach Reinalda Rueda who said post- match:
“The team was loose, they were confident; I hope we can repeat this performance when it’s worth three points.”
In this week’s Copa Sudamericana match Liga de Loja ensured their passage into the next round with a 4 -2 home win against Monagas of Venezuela. Protecting a 0 – 2 lead from the 1st leg Liga needed only to avert disaster and quickly put Monagas to the sword courtesy of a Carlos Feraud strike in between another Fabio Renato hat-trick.
Deportivo Quito and Emelec continue their Sudamericana adventure next Wednesday.
I was up in Tena last weekend, deep into the jungle and far from any internet connection. The big Guayaquil derby was won by Barcelona to preserve their lead of the table. At the bottom of the table Deportivo Quito again failed to record their first win leaving them rooted to the bottom for a 5th consecutive week. Liga again were beaten and Independiente hammered by Macara. The rest of the games were uninspiring draws leaving the table largely unchanged.
Deportivo Cuenca 0 – 0 Deportivo Quito
Liga de Loja 1 – 2 Manta F.C.
Técnico Universitario 0 – 0 Liga de Quito
El Nacional 1 – 1 Olmedo
Independiente 0 – 3 Macará
Emelec 1 – 2 BarcelonaP Won D L Pts GD Barcelona 6 4 2 0 14 +7 Manta 6 4 1 1 13 +5 Macará 6 4 0 2 12 +2 Liga 6 2 4 0 10 +2 Emelec 6 3 1 2 10 0 Olmedo 6 2 3 1 9 +3 El Nac 6 1 4 1 7 +2 Dep Cu 6 1 2 3 5 -4 Indepe 6 1 1 4 4 -4 Loja 6 1 1 4 4 -5 Técnico 6 0 4 2 4 -5 Quito 6 0 3 3 3 -3
Again this week there is a full complement of fixtures in Serie A but I will be venturing north to the home of Aucas in the 3rd division on Sunday. Much like Rangers at home Aucas are a fallen giant who have tumbled down the leagues. Traditionally they attract the support of the lower classes of Quito and are the historical rivals of city giants Liga. The Aucas supporters claim to be the most passionate in Ecuador and I will judge for myself on Sunday versus Pilahuin Tio.
This weekend’s Serie A fixtures.
Macará vs Emelec
Olmedo vs Independiente del Valle
Liga de Quito vs Deportivo Cuenca
Dep Quito vs Liga de Loja
Manta F.C. vs El Nacional
Barcelona vs Técnico Universitario
Craig Levein has announced a depleted squad for the friendly against Australia on Wednesday. Of the original squad listed last week Graham Dorrans, Jamie Mackie, Phil Bardsley and James Forrest have withdrawn due to injury. These are in addition to Darren Fletcher (long term health problems), Scott Brown, Kenny Miller (match fitness due to move to USA) and Steven Whittaker. All of which are first team squad regulars.
Levein has drafted in late replacements in David Goodwillie, Ross McCormack and somewhat controversially Ian Black
Black was recently bought by 3rd Division dwelling Rangers and only last week Levein intimated that as Rangers players are playing at such a low level he will not be including them in his squads (the example of Lee Wallace was cited). It seems however that he has already changed his opinion.
Of the squad of 23 only Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic,SPL) Andy Webster (Hearts, SPL) and Ian Black (Rangers, 3rd Div) currently ply their trade in Scotland with the majority either playing for EPL or Championship sides.
Robert Snodgrass sealed a move to Norwich City from Leeds United last month to join Steven Whittaker (who opted to Norwich as a free agent after Rangers administration) and Russell Martin.
These players together with: Gary Caldwell and Shaun Maloney (Wigan), Barry Bannan and Alan Hutton (Aston Villa), Danny Fox (Southampton), James Morrison (West Brom), Charlie Adam (Liverpool), Jamie Mackie (QPR) and Steven Naismith (Everton) means that the bulk of squad will be EPL based , which it has not been seen since the halcyon days of the 80’s and early 90’s.
Much is expected of free scoring Jordan Rhodes (Huddersfield) who has been attracting interest from many EPL teams. With Kenny Miller (Vancouver Whitecaps) still settling into his new life in the MLS Rhodes along with David Goodwillie (Blackburn Rovers) will be given the opportunity to shine.
Also with Alan McGregor now playing for Besiktas of Turkey it could be argued that the Scottish squad is now playing collectively at a higher level than the previously SPL based squads.
One thing that is for sure is that they must perform far better than their last friendly outing against the USA where they were thumped 5 -1. That end of season game did little to improve the already fragile confidence of the Scots who wilted in the Florida sun. At times it was embarrassing as a Scottish supporter to watch as the Landon Donovon led Americans waltzed around our defence on the way to any easy victory and a personal hat-trick.
Scotland Squad for Australia match:
- Goalkeepers: McGregor, Gilks, Marshall
- Defenders: Berra, Caldwell, Fox, Hanley, Hutton, Martin, Mulgrew, Webster
- Midfielders: Adam, Bannan, Black, Cowie, Morrison, Phillips, Snodgrass
- Forwards: Goodwillie, Maloney, Naismith, McCormack, Rhodes
The game should prove to be good preparation for Scotland’s upcoming home World Cup qualifiers against Serbia and Macedonia next month, before trips to Wales and Belgium in October. If Scotland are to stand any chance of qualification for Brazil 2014 they must hit the ground running and pick up at least 8 points from their opening 4 matches.
While Group A does not contain any European powerhouses, in reality the likes of Croatia and Belgium have far better players than Scotland’s.
Croatia impressed at times in Euro 2012 and were unlucky not to progress from a group including Spain and Italy. They have a healthy mix of stars like Nika Jelavic (Everton), Luka Modric (Tottenham Hotspur) and Nika Kranjcar (Dynamo Kiev) and must start as group favourites.
Belgium have not qualified for a World Cup since 2002 but currently have a slew of international stars in their side including Vincent Company (Manchester City and EPL player of the year), Eden Hazard (Chelsea and Ligue 1 player of the year) and Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal). However it remains to be seen if the Belgians can play as an international team as they do for their respective clubs.
Similarly Serbia have a host of players based in the strongest leagues in Europe. Although Dejan Stankovic has decided to retire Serbia can still count on Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United) and rising star Miralem Sulejmani (Ajax).
Group A: Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, SCOTLAND, Macedonia, Wales
It could be argued that Serbia, Scotland , Macedonia and Wales are of much the same level and Croatia and Belgium will fight it out for 1st and 2nd places. But a good start to the campaign could see the Scots push the other teams all the way.
Whether Craig Levein is the man to lead the Scots to Brazil is open to question. His handling of the Steven Fletcher affair and the infamous 5-5-0 formation against the Czech Republic have not inspired confidence in the rank and file supporters. Although he seems to be the darling of the Scottish press and seems eager to “talk the talk” there has been little to impress on the field during his tenure.
I was quite surprised to learn that Ecuador have only won 2 medals in their Olympic history and both of these by the same person; Jefferson Perez in the 20 km walk (Gold and Silver). Considering the Ecuadorians have the benefit of altitude training i would have thought they should have had more success.
But then again considering how much money the richer nations plough into their Olympic teams it could be argued that Ecuador and the other Andean nations are competing at a severe disadvantage.
This time round it looks as if they will finish medal-less with their faint hopes in the BMX, weight-lifting and boxing looking more and more remote but they may still succeed in the 200 metres and Alex Quinonez, a bricklayer from Esmeraldas who has surprised everyone to reach the final.
For many in Ecuador the Olympics have passed by un-noticed, Football is their national obsession often at the expense of other sports.
Last Sunday was the battle of the giants with Liga de Quito playing Barcelona of Guayaquil in the Casa Blanca. The entertaining 2 -2 draw helped preserve Barcelona’s lead at the top of the table while leaving Liga in 4rth.
The first 5 games of the Segunda Etage (second stage), apart from Barcelona, have gone contrary to the first stage and last years Championship. It is strange but gratifying to see a league that is so open and changeable, Liga de Loja just enjoyed one of there most successful terms in history but so far this time round have disappointed, similarly Independiente have struggled to find their previous form.
|Macará||2 – 1||El Nacional|
|Liga de Quito||2 – 2||Barcelona|
|Olmedo||2 – 1||Liga de Loja|
|Deportivo Quito||0 – 0||Técnico Universitario|
|Manta F.C.||2 – 0||Deportivo Cuenca|
|Emelec||2 – 1||Independiente del Valle|
The real losers so far however have been Deportivo Quito who have yet to record a victory this term. Considering their investment in new players and a new coach their current form leaves them rooted to the bottom of the table with no chance of retaining their Championship.On Sunday they continued their rotten run with a poor 0 – 0 draw at home to Technico Universitario.
Manta FC have so far been the surprise team of the season and their 2 – 0 (Rosa and Chingas scoring just after half-time) home win against Deportivo Cuenca boosted them to 2nd place. Macara also secured a fine 2-1 win at home to El Nacional and rise to 5th place.
|4.||Liga de Quito||
|9.||Liga de Loja||
In the Copa Sudamerican Barcelona thumped Deportivo Tachira of Venezuela 5 – 1 to ease their passage into the next round. Perlaz, Quinonez, Oyola, Matamoros and De La Torre each got a goal before Gonzalez got a late consolation.
Next week Deportivo Quito, Liga de Loja and Emelec will try to follow Barcelona’s lead when they complete their 2nd legs.
The big match of week 6 will be Emelec vs Barcelona or the Clásico del Astillero (The Shipyard Derby) in Guayaquil. This derby is recognised as the most important and historical games in Ecuador and with Emelec only one point behind their city rivals it should be a barnstormer (unfortunately i will be in the Amazon jungle all matter of beasts and insects). All of the week 6 matches will take place on Sunday but it is no exaggeration to say that all Ecuadorian eyes will be upon the George Capwell Stadium in Guayaquil.
|Deportivo Cuenca||vs||Deportivo Quito|
|Liga de Loja||vs||Manta F.C.|
|Técnico Universitario||vs||Liga de Quito|
|Independiente del Valle||vs||Macará|
Next Wednesday Ecuador will take on Chile in a money spinning friendly in Citi Field, New York home of the New York Mets (Baseball). With a large Ecuadorian and Chilean ex-pat population the match should be capacity and give Reinalda Rueda the chance to prepare his team before next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Bolivia and Uruguay.
If one looks over the national football teams of South America, in general the majority of their players ply their trade in Europe.
Latin Americans like to boast that there families are closer than any other cultures (pretty much nonsense in my view), so a move to another continent must be a wrench for footballers, especially at such a young age. However the wages on offer in Europe’s bigger leagues far outstrip those offered in Latin America, except Brazil and maybe Mexico.This coupled with the opportunity to play at a far higher level attracts young footballers to Europe and possible wealth and glory.
Less than 20 years ago the EPL and SPL had a splattering of Latin Americans of which very few were overall successes. Usually, after a season or two they escaped back to their respective paradises complaining about the dreadful food and incessant rain in the UK. Players like Juan Sebastian Veron (Man United, Chelsea, Diego Forlan (Man United) and Jared Borghetti (Bolton), despite being heroes at home failed to set the heather alight in the bright lights of the EPL/Premiership and were unfairly labelled as South American duds.
In Scotland we had the likes of Emerson and Gabriel Amato (Rangers) or Rafeal Schiedt (Celtic) but admittedly their were some successes alike Claudio Cannagia (Argentina) and Ulysses De La Cruz (Hibernian).
But as the years progressed for every Robinho (Man City) there was at least another Juninho (Middlesborough and Celtic) and for every Crespo (Chelsea) a Gilberto Silva (Arsenal).
Now all of the best players from Latin America play in Europe’s top leagues and the Champions league. Whereas before Latin American’s were a lesser spotted novelty now they are the bedrock of many of the successful European club teams.
If we take the current “biggest” teams in Europe(free to disagree).
Real Madrid have Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina), Marcelo and Kaka (Brazil).
Barcelona have Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano (Argentina), Dani Alves and Adriano (Brazil) and Alexis Sanchez (Chile).
Bayern Munich have Dante, Rafinha and Luis Gustavo (Brazil).
Chelsea (as Champions league winners) have David Luis, Ramires and Oscar (Brazil).
Manchester United have Javier Hernandez (Mexico), Antonio Valencia (Ecuador) and Rafeal (Brazil).
and free spending Paris Saint-Germain have Thiago Silva, Nene, Alex and Maxwell (Brazil), Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi (Argentina) and Diego Lugano (Uruguay).
This is not to mention the imminent transfers of Neymar, Ganso, Lucas Ocampos and Alexander Mejja. It seems as if every team needs to have a South American player now (even 3rd Division dwelling Rangers recently acquired Brazilian Emilson Cribari).
With their shared languages Portugal and Spain have always found it easier to attract Latin Americans ranging from Hugo Sanchez to Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho however now La Liga has to contend with clubs in Russia and their immense oil wealth. Similarly many young players wisely seem to choose clubs in Ligue 1 or the Eredivise as stepping stone to greater things.
Whether these players are more determined than those before or maybe life is now more tolerable in the northern European countries is open to question but what is not in doubt is that Latin Americans are succeeding and entertaining in European football like never before. Scouts from every major and minor team now scour the American continent looking for the next Messi or Maradona and whereas before they were content to pay the high transfer fees, now the European clubs want the Latin stars as early and as cheaply as possible.
A recent statistic from Brazil claimed that over 1,000 young footballers leave Brazil alone every year. With only a small percentage destined for super stardom and eye watering contracts the rest will a journey man existence or return home to their barrios and favelas. It’s a harsh lesson to learn at such a young age and one hopes they can recover from being spat by a football industry that treats them more as commodities rather than entertainers or even artists.