Why the Ecuadorians have it so much better on match-days.

Every time I make a visit to the Atahaulpa Stadium I can’t help but make comparisons with back home. My usual judgement is that Ecuadorians have it so much better than in Scotland or the UK.

There is no doubt that British stadiums are safer but there over-sterilisation and sanitisation has ruined many aspects of the modern game. Many stadiums are glorified cow-sheds, little more than four banks of seats into which fans are herded like sheep.

No more apparent than this is Hampden Park where the famous Hampden roar has been replaced by the Hampden moan or muffled groan.

Hampden Park got a £20 millon re-fit a number of years ago. The end result was: a dissipation of the noise, an athletics track separating the fans from the pitch by at least 10 metres, 70,000 fans became 50,000 and a severely diluted atmosphere.

The Atahaulpa has not been touched for 50 years and the atmosphere is electric. The capacity has been reduced to 35,000 recently and you have the athletics track but it doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm.

the vantage point

On Friday my Dutch friend and I made our way through the fans, police and many touts. After a couple of aborted entries we finally managed to reach the general area of our seats but not before buying beers at the back of the stadium. As the game was already 5 minutes old and we didn’t want to annoy the other patrons in that dreadful cinema like shuffle through the crowds  we stayed-put, aside the beer stand.

Everyone in the back row of seats (which is really a long, concrete block) were standing for a better vantage point. Behind them was a line of Police, some with dogs, all with batons and behind the Police I stood with my friend.Both of us a good foot taller than the rest.

In the two hours we stood there sipping our beers not one Policeman or woman asked us to move, sit down or find our seats. We were causing no problem nor blocking access, simply watching the game so the authorities left us alone. (The only hairy moment was when one of the Police Alsatians started to attack an imaginary assailant. Many wide eyed fans turned and looked on fearing that it could cause some dreadful chain reaction of biting  hounds.In the end the mutt was shepherded away to safety).

Chileans go daft after taking the lead

And therein lies the biggest difference between the match experience in Latin America and the United Kingdom.

In Scotland you are constantly harassed by over-blown security guards and zealous quasi-authorities either wanting you to sit-down, pipe down or calm down. Some luminous jacketed dolt, who was too fat to become a real policeman or too dim to secure a respected job has to use his/her two hours of authority to dampen your match day experience.

And its only the proper fan who rises to remonstrate at the referee or roar his football song that gets reprimanded. If a burly troglodyte is shouting abuse or sectarian or racist bile the security guards are nowhere to be seen. The cowards only admonish the normal fan, knowing fine they won’t receive a smack in the mouth or verbal tirade in response.

On Friday, the Chilean supporters were situated right beside us, numbering about 2-3000 and they regularly intermingled on their way to the toilet or to get some food or more beer. There was no cordon of yellow nor line of Police, even when Chile took the lead there was little more than muffled insults and derogatory, hand signals.

In the end Ecuador won 3 – 1 to bolster their qualification chances for Brazil 2014. As the Ecuadorian fans shuffled out of the stadium many insults were traded with the glum looking Chileans. The usual cries of “chuta- madre” and “hijo de la chingada” were exchanged along with self-explanatory gestures that even a nun would understand.

In Scotland you would be probably hauled off to the Chateau D’If for such “anti-social” behaviour.

Ecuadorian football may have many flaws but I’d have their match-days, any day compared to the over-priced and over- bearing experience of home. Football in Ecuador maybe like football in Scotland 30 years ago.

Not such a bad thing considering where we are as a football nation now.

Argentina top the table

Argentina continue to top the CONMEBOL table after their 2-1 away win against Chile last night.

Chile fell asleep for 4 minutes in the first half and allowed Messi and Higuain to claim a quick brace in 28 and 31 minutes. Argentina then needed only to hang on to claim 3 points but they did concede a late Gutierrez consolation.

In Puerto La Cruz, Ecuador recorded a fine away draw against Venezuela to bolster their qualification chances.

“La Vinotintos” took the lead, with what must have been the goal of the night through Juan Arango. The veteran captain collected the ball 30 yards from goal then unleashed an unstoppable howitzer past the flailing Dominguez.

Ecuador rallied and restored parity 15 minutes later through Segundo Castillo when he struck low from inside the box. Although both teams had chances to win it a draw was probably a fair result in an open and entertaining game

In Asuncion, Pablo Aguilar claimed the only goal of the night to win the bottom of the table clash against Peru. Barring a small miracle neither team should be in contention for the qualification spots.

The surprise of the night was in La Paz where Bolivia hammered Uruguay 4 -1. Carlos Saucedo grabbed a hat-trick to condemn Uruguay to their second defeat in five days. Luis Suarez got one back near the end.

Concern must be growing for” La Celeste” as they have managed to take only one point form three games, two of which were at home.

BOLIVIA 4 – 1 URUGUAY

PARAGUAY 1 – 0 PERU

VENEZUELA 1 -1 ECUADOR

CHILE 1 – 2 ARGENTINA

The COMNEBOL table seems to splitting in 3 parts with Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia moving away slightly form the pack. That being said two positive results can alter qualification chances dramatically and no team is in the clear yet.

CONMEBOL team of week 9 (12/10/2012)

Week 9 saw Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia win and move away from the pack. The qualifying group has now split into 3 parts with Chile and Uruguay losing form in the last 3 games.

Messi was at his imperial best against Uruguay. It has often been touted that little Leo does not perform for his country and cannot replicate his Barcelona form. This qualifying campaign, and the recent Brazil friendly largely dispels this myth.

His second goal was particularly impressive. It wasn’t as spectacular as his recent free-kick against Real Madrid but it was the apparent simplicity and ease in his execution to slip the ball low past the keeper.

BOLIVIA  1 (Chumacero 51′) PERU 1 (Marion0 21′)

COLOMBIA 2 (Falcoa 52′, 90′) PARAGUAY 0

ECUADOR 3 (Caicedo 33′,56′, Castillo 93′) CHILE (Paredes OG 25′)

ARGENTINA 3 (Messi 66′,80′ Aguero 75′) URUGUAY 0

 

In Quito, Ecuador finally broke down a stubborn Chile after initially going behind. A couple of rash challenges had Chile eventually go down to 9 men and Ecuador took full advantage. Their tormentor in chief was Felipe Caicedo who continued his impressive international form and scored his 3rd and 4th goals in 3 games.

 

Man of the moment Radamel Falcao scored a brace against bottom dwelling Paraguay while in La Paz, Bolivia and Peru recorded 1-1 draw helping neither of their qualification chances.

My best 11 of last Friday’s games:

 

 

Ecuador can go top of the table with win against Chile

If results go their way on Friday and Tuesday, Ecuador could top the CONMEBOL table and bolster their World Cup qualification chances.

The coming games against Chile at home then Venezuela in Caracas are not the easiest, but winnable even without some key players.

Antonio Valencia will sit out the Chile game through suspension and Jairo Campos has ruptured his Achilles but apart from that Ecuador have a full strength squad.

Christian Noboa returns after suspension and Jefferson Montero is back after missing the game in Uruguay through injury.

Ecuadorian coach Reinalda Rueda should be aiming for at least 4 points from these two games. In last month’s game against Bolivia is team were fairly dreadful and had to rely on a poor penalty decision to take 3 points. In Montevideo their fortune was reversed and they suffered because of shambolic refereeing display.

Ecuador’s last 5 games

Sep 11, 2012       Uruguay 1 – Ecuador 1    WCQ

Sep 7, 2012         Ecuador 1 – Bolivia 0        WCQ

Aug 16, 2012       Ecuador 3 – Chile 0           Friendly

Jun 10, 2012        Ecuador 1 – Colombia 0  WCQ

Jun 2, 2012          Argentina 4 – Ecuador 0 WCQ

It’s difficult to make any inferences form August’s friendly game as it was in the USA and Chile did not look like they took it so seriously. But their last game against a resurgent Colombia was very disappointing.

Chile’s superstars are Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona) and Eduardo Vargas (Napoli) but they have a spread of players in most of the top leagues in Europe. Currently Chile also has a strong domestic league and teams like Universidad de Chile, Colo Colo and Universidad Catolica usually compete in the latter stages of the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.

I doubt Chile will be as negative and defensive as Bolivia or Colombia in the Atahaulpa stadium but I still expect them to play on the counter attack.

Chile’s last 5 games

Sep 11, 2012       Chile 1 – Colombia 3         WCQ

Aug 16, 2012       Ecuador 3 – Chile 0           Friendly

Jun 9, 2012          Venezuela 0 – Chile 2      WCQ

Jun 2, 2012          Bolivia 0 – Chile 2               WCQ

Apr 12, 2012       Peru 0 – Chile 3                Friendly

Ecuador has better form going to Friday’s game and should take confidence from their recent friendly win. Competitive games between the countries have been tight affairs.

Head to Head

Aug 16, 2012       Ecuador 3 – Chile 0          Friendly

Oct 14, 2009        Chile 1 – Ecuador 0           WCQ

Oct 12, 2008        Ecuador 1 – Chile 0           WCQ

Jun 27, 2007        Ecuador 2 – Chile 3          Copa America

Game Prediction :  Ecuador 2 Chile 0

CONMEBOL Qualification table

                      P            W        D         L          GF       GA      GD      Pts

 Argentina           7              4              2              1              15           6              +9           14

 Colombia           7              4              1              2              12           6              +6           13

 Ecuador               7              4              1              2              8              7              +1           13

 Uruguay              7              3              3              1              15           11           +4           12

 Chile                  7                4              0              3              12           13           -1            12

 Venezuela         8              3              2              3              7              8              -1            11

 Peru                    7               2              1              4              9              13           -4            7

 Bolivia                 7              1              1              5              7              12           -5            4

 Paraguay            7              1              1              5              5              14           -9            4

 

Realistically, unless they turn around their poor form Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru are out of contention for one of the 5 qualification spots. However with only 3 points between the top 6 any of the other nations can aspire to be in Brazil.

Hope comes with double Fletcher return for Scotland

 

Friday will see the return of both Fletchers but which one will have the greatest effect on the already faltering World Cup qualification campaign?

Scotland captain and Manchester United midfielder, Darren Fletcher should return to bolster a weak looking centre of the team. Fletcher’s calming influence and dynamism was sorely missed in the recent games against both Serbia and Macedonia.

His unexpected return to first team action in the EPL and Champions league for United after a career threatening illness has provided the long suffering Tartan Army with a rare boost.

After an inauspicious start at Old Trafford Fletcher has gone on to become a regular starter in Alex Ferguson’s team. Combative and cultured, on his day Fletcher can make the difference in midfield, even popping up with the occasional goal. Although slight in build he is capable of bossing the midfield with tenacious tackling and solid marking.

Aged 28 Fletcher has made 58 appearances for Scotland, scoring 5 goals. He is an integral part of the Scotland team and a rare class player in a quality starved squad. The only question that remains is if he can last for two tough international after such a long absence especially as against Belgium he will, alike his team-mates spend a lot of time chasing the ball.

Scott Brown will also return to the squad for the game against Wales and his partnership with Fletcher should give Scotland a strong midfield base.

 

 

 

 

 

Steven Fletcher returns to the Scotland squad after a 2 year self-imposed absence. During the summer he completed a £14 million transfer to Sunderland and since then has started the seasons impressively scoring all of the Black Cat’s goals. Fletcher is an accomplished striker and target man with a decent record in the EPL. Although he does not do the running and tracking back of Kenny Miller Craig Mackail Smith he is deadly in front of goal. His starting 11 inclusion is a “no brainer” it just remains to be seen if he receives the adequate service to convert chances.

The childish spat between Fletcher and Craig Levein was finally healed, after media and fan pressure last week hopefully their new found amity will produce results on Friday and Tuesday.

 

Squad for games against Wales and Belgium:

 

Goalkeepers

Matt Gilks (Blackpool), Allan McGregor (Besiktas), David Marshall (Cardiff City)

Defenders

Christophe Berra (Wolves), Gary Caldwell (Wigan Athletic), Daniel Fox (Southampton), Grant Hanley (Blackburn Rovers), Alan Hutton (Aston Villa), Russell Martin (Norwich City), Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic), Andy Webster (Heart of Midlothian)

Midfielders

Charlie Adam (Stoke), Scott Brown (Celtic), Darren Fletcher (Manchester United), James Forrest (Celtic), James McArthur (Wigan Athletic), Shaun Maloney (Wigan Athletic), James Morrison (West Bromwich Albion), Robert Snodgrass (Norwich City)

Forwards

Steven Fletcher (Sunderland), Jamie Mackie (Queens Park Rangers), Kenny Miller (Vancouver Whitecaps), Matt Phillips (Blackpool), Jordan Rhodes (Blackburn Rovers)

 

Although the inclusion of both Fletchers and Scott Brown has been praised by all there are still many criticising Levein’s omission of Celtic midfielder, Kris Commons. Although Commons has started the SPL well and impressed in Europe the Scotland coach has again omitted the player from his squad, even after Steven Naismith’s 2 match ban for violent conduct. His non-inclusion is puzzling in the extreme.

 

probable team to face Wales on Friday 12th October:

 

Scotland 4-4-2 football formation

 

On paper Wales are too daunting an opponent but they do have two genuine European class players in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsay. The Celtic duo of Adam Matthews and Joe Ledley should not hold any surprises however Joe Allen in midfield will be a player to watch. The Welsh have had a poor start to their campaign and are coming off a 6 – 1 hiding against Serbia. They know already that a loss to Scotland may end their faint qualification hope.s

 

Wales 4-4-2 football formation

Belgium have an extremely talented group of players at present.Not only is the majority of the team playing in the EPL but they are also flourishing for their respective teams, all of which are currently in the top 6 or in the Champions League.

Dembele, Hazard, Felliani and Lukaku have hit the new season running and Vincent Company was the player of the season last year.Added to this Vertonghen, Vermaelen and Van Buyten (the three V,s??) are experienced quality defenders.

 

Belgium football formation

 

 

All to play for in CONMEBOL qualifiers

 

Such is the format of South American (CONMEBOL) qualifying that one double header of matches can drastically change the various team standings. While Bolivia,Peru and Paraguay look to be increasingly separated from the pack all the other teams still have realistic chances of qualification. Especially with 5 possible berths for Brazil up for grabs.

Unsurprisingly Argentina lead the pack but only by a solitary point over Ecuador and a resurgent Colombia.

QUALIFYING STAGE TABLE
POS TEAM P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Argentina 7 4 2 1 15 6 9 14
2 Ecuador 7 4 1 2 8 7 1 13
3 Colombia 7 4 1 2 12 6 6 13
4 Uruguay 7 3 3 1 15 11 4 12
5 Chile 7 4 0 3 12 13 -1 12
6 Venezuela 8 3 2 3 7 8 -1 11
7 Peru 7 2 1 4 9 13 -4 7
8 Bolivia 7 1 1 5 7 12 -5 4
9 Paraguay 7 1 1 5 5 14 -9 4
Of all the teams to compete next week Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Ecuador have the most to gain with 2 matches each. The only problem is they are competing for the same 6 points.
The glamour tie on Friday is Argentina vs Uruguay with Messi, Arguero, Tevez against Suarez, Cavani and Ramirez. A win for either may see them top the table, a loss and it’s a long plane journey to their respective  away ties following.
Ecuador have two winnable games against Chile at home the Venezuela away. 6 points would see them rocket to the top depending on Argentina’s results.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2012
Time Stage Venue
20:00 GMT Bolivia  v  Peru Qualifying Stage Hernando Siles
20:30 GMT Colombia  v  Paraguay Qualifying Stage Roberto Meléndez
21:00 GMT Ecuador  v  Chile Qualifying Stage Atahualpa
00:00 GMT Argentina  v  Uruguay Qualifying Stage Mundialista Mendoza
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2012
Time Stage Venue
20:00 GMT Bolivia  v  Uruguay Qualifying Stage Hernando Siles
22:00 GMT Paraguay  v  Peru Qualifying Stage Defensores del Chaco
22:00 GMT Venezuela  v  Ecuador Qualifying Stage General Anzoátegui
00:05 GMT Chile  v  Argentina Qualifying Stage Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez

Ecuador may go into double header without Valencia

Ecuador may go into Friday’s qualifier against Chile without their only true superstar and talisman, Antonio Valencia. The Manchester United winger is carrying an injury and it will be last minute race for his inclusion.

It’s hard to over-emphasis the dependency of Ecuador upon Valencia. Most of the national teams attacking play flow down the right wing and with Valencia’s bombing runs or link up play with Juan Carlos Paredes.

In last month’s qualifier, Bolivia doubled upped on Valencia neutralising his effect upon the game and it was a ploy that nearly got them a point. Chile should be more adventurous but still mindful of the Valencia effect.

Ecuador 4-4-2 football formation

 

Luckily “El Tri” has a relative amount of depth in their squad and Vitesse Arnhem’s; Renato Ibarra may be called upon to fill the void. Added to this Christian Noboa will return after suspension and livewire, Jefferson Montero comes back after pulling his hamstring versus Bolivia.

Ecuador is strong in midfield. Luis Saritama is a cultured “centro-campista” who has the ability to link midfield to attack well and spray incisive passes down the sides. Personally I feel he is underrated and overlooked.

Similarly Segundo Castillo and Oswaldo Minda are competent midfielders with experience abroad.

In attack Ecuador also have genuine quality. Christian Benitez is currently banging them in in Mexico for giants Club America. Hardly a week goes by without him claiming a goal in a strong national league. Although not tall by European standards Benitez has great strength and blistering speed.

In all likelihood he will be partnered by Felipe Caicedo, once of Manchester City. After a brief hiatus from the national team Caicedo has returned to claim two goals in the last two games: both penalties against Bolivia then Uruguay. The Barcelona partnership of Michael Arroyo and Narciso Mina should provide back up in attrack.

Ecuador’s one other injury problem is centre half Jairo Campo who has severely torn his Achilles and will sit out all football for at least two months. His omission is a blow for Ecuador as he is a dominant leader in defence but Jorge Guagua or Friksen Arazo should ably deputise for the games against Chile and Venezeula.

 

 Jairo Campos

Levein’s starting 11 versus Macedonia

4 hours before the game starts and Craig Levein has already announced that Jamie Mackie, James Forrest and Shaun Maloney will replace Charlie Adam, Robert Snodgrass and Steven Naismith.

The only question on every Scottish fans lips is: Why no Jordan Rhodes?

Kenny Miller looked knackered at half-time on Saturday and Rhodes had an immediate effect even with only 10 minutes to impress.

At least Levein has made changes but he hasn’t gone the whole hog.

Scotland 4-4-2 football formation

Predicted formations for Uruguay vs Ecuador

Uruguay are coming off a 4- o hiding against Colombia on Friday and have slipped to 4rth in the CONMEBOL table. A combination of the relentless heat, a bad start and some iffy goal keeping contributed to their dramatic collapse. Anything less than a win  for Oscar Taberez’s team would be disastrous.

“That goal calmed their nerves and put us as the away team into a difficult position,” said Tabarez after the game.

“We were always chasing the game throughout after that, though, I admit it is a shocking and disappointing result.”

The defeat in Barranquilla follows a poor Olympics in London but was generally surprising considering “La Celeste’s” fine performances in the last World Cup and Copa America.

They should set-up with an attacking front  3 of Forlan, Cavani and Suarez and be expected to take the offensive initiative.

                         Uruguay 4-3-3 football formation

Ecuador struggled to overcome a stubborn Bolivia on Friday and in the end needed a dubious penalty to save their blushes. Realistically a draw would be a fine result for “El Tri” especially as Uruguay will be hurting after their thumping against Colombia.

Jeffersom Montero pulled up with a hamstring injury on Friday and should be replaced by Michael Arroyo of Barcelona while Caicedo should start after making an impression and scoring a goal versus Bolivia.

Christain “chuco” Benitez will come back after suspension and maybe expected to plow a lone furrow up-front against Uruguay, depending on Reinalda Rueda’s attacking pretensions.

I doubt Uruguay will be as defensive as Bolivia

Ecuador 4-4-2 football formation

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