Ecuador do just enough to win against Bolivia

       VS        

It was frustrating, edgy and nerve wracking but in the end Ecuador managed to secure a vital 3 points for their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Bolivia opted for a suffocating 4-5-1 and Ecuador found it difficult to break down their defensive wall however they were ultimately victorious 1 – 0 in a sweltering Atahaulpa Stadium.

Substitute Felipe Caicedo was the man who finally made the difference in the 71st minute. After wriggling through a couple of challenges he slipped the ball to Luis Saritama who was then bundled to the ground in the penalty box. The penalty award was harsh by Venezuelan referee Juan Soto but Caicedo coolly slotted past Hugo Suárez to claim the decisive goal.

As expected Reinalda Ruelda opted for a 4-4-2 formation replacing the suspended duo of Benitez and Noboa with Mina and Saritama.

Starting line-up for Ecuador:

                                                                        Alexander Domínguez
 
                                                                     Fricson Erazo          Jairo Campos  
              
                                 Juan Carlos Paredes                                                       Walter Ayovi
 
                              Antonio Valencia                   Segundo Castillo              Jefferson Montero
 
                                                                                       Luis Saritama
 
                                                                              Narciso Mina
                                                                                                               Jaime  Ayoví

Starting line-up for Bolivia:

                                                             Hugo Suarez

José Barba       Christian Vargas    R. Raldes        Luis Gutiérrez   Luís Méndez                                       

                                  Mauricio Saucedo    G. Mojica  Pedro Azogue           

                                                            José Chávez

                                                           Marcelo Moreno

Ecuador attacked from the outset and it was clear from the opening minutes that their attacks would come down each of the channels. Obviously aware of the threat of Antonio Valencia Bolivia opted to double up on the Manchester United winger which in turn provided more space for the marauding Paredes on the left.

Despite this it was on the right through Jefferson Montero where Ecuador had early success.

Montero was linking well with Saritama down the right hand side but his final balls were too far and wide for the attackers to meet. When he cut inside the defenders he was crudely challenged by Ronald Raldes then José Chávez both of which received early cautions 9 minutes in. The resulting free-kicks, just outside the Bolivian box were ballooned over the goals.

Ecuador were enjoying the lion’s share of possession and creating down the wings as the first quarter of the match passed but the final balls from both Montero, on the right and Paredes, on the left were often high and awry.

The Ecuadorian crowd rose from their seats in anticipation every time Valencia received the ball but apart from some nice switches to the right hand side his influence upon the game was very limited. Bolivia were crowding the midfield and stifling Ecuador’s pretensions with illegal challenges and Pedro Azogue was lucky not to go into the referee’s book after persistent fouls.

It made for a slow and uneventful first half, just what the Bolivians had hoped for.

On 34 minutes Ayovi was put through by Paredes but he scuffed his shot wide and as half time approached, Montero pulled up holding his hamstring ending his influence upon the game.

Half time brought welcome respite for all from the bleaching, Ecuadorian sun. In the first half the clouds had protected the Atahaulpa from the scorching rays but as the game progressed the heat became intolerable, for a Scotsman at least.

Both teams made changes for the 2nd half: Ecuador replaced the injured Montero with Michael Mina and Bolivia swapped Mauricio Saucedo for Alcides Jimenez.

Again Ecuador took the initiative and attacked through Paredes and Valencia. Twice and in two minutes Valencia did well to beat his marker and cross into the box each time the ball was too high for a proper connection by Ayovi.

Felipoa Caicedo

On 55 minutes Reinalda Ruelda changed Jaime Javier Ayoví Corozo for Felipe Caicedo, a decision that would ultimately change the match. Caicedo was more direct and willingly to take the ball into the centre and while his first few shot s were wild or blocked his incisive play contributed to Ecuador’s penalty on 71 minutes.

Taking the ball from the right hand side he dribbled past 3 players then laid the ball off to an onrushing Saritama who then seemed to run into Ronald Raldes. The referee deemed it to be illegal challenge and awarded a harsh penalty against the centre half.

The Bolivian’s were incandescent with rage and surrounded the referee in futile attempt to get the decision reversed, only managing to pick up yellow cards for dissent.

Caicedo stepped up and dispatched his penalty low to the left sending Suarez the wrong way and 35,000 crowd into rapture. On balance Ecuador had deserved their lead as Bolivia rarely threatened and seemed happy to spoil and defend.

Ecuador pushed for a second but Bolivia managed resist with some last ditch defending and clearances.

When Bolivia staged a late counter the crowd feared the worst but luckily the chance was wasted and Ecuador hung on to claim a deserved 3 points.

Ecuador will have to play better against Uruguay in Montevideo on Tuesday if they want to secure any points and preserve their 2nd position in the qualifying table. Added to which their national hero, Antonio Valencia will have to up his game as he was largely anonymous and heavy-legged for the majority of the match.

Although the defence were generally solid they had little to do against a stoic Bolivia. On the rare times that they were threatened the Ecuadorians sometimes looked indecisive, against Uruguay on Tuesday they cannot afford to be as lax. Christain Benitez will return on Tuesday giving Ecuador more of an attacking edge and attacking focal point.

Bolivia’s qualification chances look doomed already. Having played one more game than the rest and 6 points behind 5th place they will need some surprising results to move up the table.

The CONMEBAL qualifiers continue on Tuesday, when Chile take on Colombia, Uruguay host Ecuador, Paraguay play Venezuela and Peru face Argentina.

Make or break for Levein and Scotland?

Scotland’s double header against Serbia and Macedonia will go a long way to deciding our qualification fate, even at such an early stage.

As both games are at home 6 points are a necessity especially if we view Serbia as a runner-up contender. Previous campaigns have been lost in Hampden rather than on our travels. Plainly speaking if we lose at home then there is no chance of Pina Colada’s on the Copacabana.

Much of the pre-match and campaign talk has been unusually, optimistic. Scotland possesses strength in the forward areas which previous coaches bemoaned the lack of, but now we have an almost embarrassment of riches.

The emergence of Jordan Rhodes, Robert Snodgrass and Ross McCormack allied to mainstays like Steven Naismith, Kenny Miller and Shaun Maloney give Scotland a potent and capable attack for the first time in years.

Jordan Rhodes

However, a slew of injuries in defence means Scotland are scrambling for experience and sufficient quality at the back. The late exit of Charlie Mulgrew, Danny Fox and Russell Martin has dramatically weakened the previously, robust defensive wall and the last minute replacements Paul Dixon and Gary McKenzie lack international experience.

And herein lies the problem.

Scotland’s last two friendly matches have shown us their greatest weakness and strength.

The 5-1 humbling against the USA at the tail end of last season was dreadful. Landon Donovan ripped through a ponderous and static defence at will and left the Scottish defence battered, bruised and sapped of confidence. With consideration that it was the end of a long season and under the blazing, Jacksonville sun Scotland still looked disorganised and exposed.

Realistically we need an extra man to cover the space between defence and midfield: to aid the fragile centre halves and protect us when Alan Hutton goes on his marauding runs.

Gary Caldwell should fit into this position but then it deprives us of his services at centre half and his influence upon a sometimes flaky Christophe Berra.

Against Australia at Easter Road we were more adventurous and attack minded, even after going behind to an early wonder strike. The high tempo, kick and rush game suits Scotland and our abilities, there is no point in having unrealistic pretences to the “Tiki-Taki” Barcelona/Spain style when we don’t have players able to carry it out.

James Morrison and Charlie Adam

When the Scotland players are more combative and physical they impose themselves upon the game and the opponents. It’s in our nature to be confrontational and antagonistic and a football team at its best should reflect the characteristics of its people. Think Brazil and Holland in the 1970’s or France in the 1990’s.

Previous coaches have sacrificed attacking intrepidness and risk for cold hard pragmatism and uber-defence and while this was almost successful with Walter Smith and Alex McLeish the end result was the same: TV tournaments.

Craig Levein’s no-striker, 4-6-0 formation against the Czech Republic was met with howls of derision and exasperation and rightly so.

For the first time in years we have fine players who are capable and willing to attack and entertain so the least the coach should do is give them the opportunity to express themselves. But that is not to be too foolhardy and naïve as neither these players nor the fans can stomach many more 5-1 humblings.

I have my doubts about Craig Levein and his experimental line-ups and handling of the Steven Fletcher and Ian Black affairs but he has my full support none-the-less.

Craig Levein

I hope he leads us all the way to the Maracana and to do this he needs 6 points against Serbia and Macedonia. Anything less and its warm Tennent’s at the T in the Park rather than a cool, Brahma on the Copacabana.

          vs     

 

Line-up for Friday versus Serbia:

                                                      Alan McGregor

           Alan Hutton           Christophe Berra                 Paul Dixon

                                                        Gary Caldwell

                                                       Charlie Adam

   Steven Naismith   James Morrison   Shaun Maloney

                                  Robert Snodgrass  

                                                              Jordan Rhodes

key substitutes : Ross McCormack, Kenny Miller, Jamie Mackie, James Forrest or Don Cowie depending on injuries.

I’m fully aware that Levein will pick Miller alone up front.

The Serbs are going through a transitional period and blooding in many youth players.They have a number of danger players but most are inexperienced at International level. The main goal threat should come from Dejan Lekic who plays for Genclerbirligi in the Turkish first division. In defence they have Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea and Alexsandar Kolarov of Manchester City. Thankfully Dejan Stanković has retired.

Their coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, who was an extremely gifted footballer and free-kick specialist, has been bullish and confident in preparation however he has a chequered and controversial past and is prone to outlandish outbursts.

A busy fortnight of football in Ecuador

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


GOALKEEPERS:

DOMINGUEZ, (LIGA DE QUITO)

BANGUERA,  (BARCELONA)

BONE,  (DEPORTIVO QUITO)

DEFENCE:

PAREDES,  (DEPORTIVO QUITO)

ACHILLIER,  (EMELEC)

AYOVI,  (MONTERREY, MÉXICO)

CALDERON, (LIGA DE QUITO)

CAMPOS,  (BARCELONA)

ERAZO,  (BARCELONA)

GUAGUA, (ATLANTE , MÉXICO)

MIDFIELD:

CASTILLO,  (PACHUCA , MÉXICO)

LEON, (INDEPENDIENTE)

MINDA,  (CHIVAS, USA)

QUIÑONEZ,  (EL NACIONAL)

ARROYO, (BARCELONA)

SARITAMA,  (DEPORTIVO QUITO)

VALENCIA, (MANCHESTER UNITED )

MONTERO, (MORELIA , MÉXICO)

ROJAS, JOAO (MORELIA , MÉXICO)

ATTACK:

AYOVI,  (AL NASSR,SAUDI ARABI)

BENITEZ, (AMÉRICA,MÉXICO)

CAICEDO, (LOKOMOTIV ,RUSSIA)

MINA, (BARCELONA)

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.

 

   
 Chile 6 12
 Uruguay 5 11
 Argentina 5 10
 Ecuador 5 9
 Venezuela 6 8
 Colombia 5 7
 Bolivia 6 4
 Paraguay 5 4
 Peru 5 3
 

 

 

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
Cobreloa (Chile) vs Barcelona
Tuesday, August 28 – 19:45
Olympia (Paraguay) vs Emelec
Wednesday, August 29 – 17:15
Liga de Loja vs Nacional (Uruguay)
Thursday, August 30 – 17:15
Deportivo Quito vs Aurora (Bolivia)
With 8 games played Deportivo Quito’s season is essentially over bar their participation in the Copa Sudamericana, It is hard to believe they won the Championship last year as they are currently rooted to the bottom and don’t look like climbing the table. Similarly Liga de Loja are struggling in 2nd bottom position unable to recapture last terms form.
The big teams (Barcelona, Emelec and Liga) continue scrape to single goal wins and it looks like their matches against each other will go a long way to deciding the title.
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

 

 

Team P W E L Pts GD
1. Barcelona
8 5 2 1 17 +7
2. Emelec
1
8 5 1 2 16 +2
3. Macara
2
8 5 0 3 15 +3
4. Manta FC
2
8 4 2 2 14 +4
5. Liga de Quito
1
8 3 4 1 13 +1
6. Olmedo
2
8 3 3 2 12 +4
7. The National
7 1 5 1 8 +2
8. Deportivo Cuenca
8 2 2 4 8 -3
9. Independiente
3
8 2 1 5 7 -5
10. Tec Universidad
1
8 1 4 3 7 -6
11. Liga de Loja
1
8 1 2 5 5 -6
12. Deportivo Quito
1
7 0 4 3 4 -3

;

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.

Steven Fletcher

;

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.

Scotland starting 11 vs Australia

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.

New season and a new hope for Scotland and it’s EPL based players.

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.

Scotland coach Craig Levein

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.

 

https://footballintheclouds.wordpress.com

Ecuador hammer Chile in the big apple

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.

Ecuadorian captain Antonio Valencia

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.

Montero out-jumps Minto

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.”

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wq0AX7j2j98&feature=player_embedded

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 Barcelona

P 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.

Ian Black for 3rd division Rangers

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.

Scotland “starlet” Jordan Rhodes

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.

EPL layer of the year, Vincent Company

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.

Barcelona retain position at the top while Deportivo flounder at the bottom.

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Liga de Loja  2  – 2  E Nacional

Deportivo Cuenca   2 – 1 Independiente

Deportivo Quito  0  – 1  Manta F.C

LDU Quito (Liga)  0  –  0 Olmedo

Barcelona  4  – 0  Macara

Technico Univ   1 –  1  Emelec

Barcelona moved clear of the pack to take the lead in this term’s 2nd game.  The Guayaquil giants hammered Macara 4 – 0 to take a two point lead over their city rivals Emelec, who could only draw 1 -1 versus Technico Universitario. Emelec sit level with Liga with 4 points.

With only two games played it is hard to make any judgements but in general most teams have carried on their 1st term form.

The real surprise so far has been Deportivo Quito who lost for the 2nd time in a row against Manta. Deportivo have invested heavily in new players but so far they have failed to improve their fortunes. Similarly Liga de Loja have made a poor start to this term and languish in 2nd bottom. Both teams will hope to abandon their league form when they compete in the Copa Sudamericana matches in the next month.

  Team                              P            W           D              L        PTS        
Barcelona                    2                2           0              0           6             
 LDU (Liga)                  2              1              1              0           4             
 Emelec                         2               1              1              0           4             
Cuenca                          2             1              0              1             3             
Manta                            2             1              0              1             3             
IJT                                    2              1              0              1           3             
 Macara                         2              1              0              1          3             
 National                     2              0              2              0          2             
 Technical U.             2              0              2              0         2             
 Olmedo                       2              0              1              1           1             
  L. Loja                         2              0              1              1           1             
  D. Quito                      2              0              0              2        0          
 
 
   

Week 3 will take place on Wednesday with the pick of the bunch being a Quito derby in the Atahualpa Stadium. In reality Deportivo must beat Liga if they want to retain their championship.

Barcelona face a tough trip to Manta while their city rivals, Emelec play Liga de Loja at home.

              Independiente   – VS –     Nacional

                                    Macara             – VS –     Deportivo Cuenca

                Olmedo                – VS –     Tecnico U.

                D. Quito               – VS –     L. D. U (Liga)

                            Manta               -VS –             Barcelona

                Emelec – VS –     L. Loja

In other new the Ecuador Football Association released the dates and time for the next two World Cup Qualifiers. In reality the association’s hands have been tied by another dreadful directive by FIFA. Alike the European based qualifiers matches will now be taking place on Tuesdays and Fridays. The games will probably take place in the late afternoon locally setting in motion a mass scurry of movement in Quito. Lame excuses and requests for early days are being conjured all over Ecuador as I write.

Game 7

07.09.2012 | 15.30hs. (20.30 GMT) | Uruguay vs. Colombia

07.09.2012 | 16.00hs. (21.00 GMT) | Ecuador vs. Bolivia

07.09.2012 | 20.10hs. (23.10 GMT) | Argentina vs. Paraguay

07.09.2012 | 20.15hs. (15.01 GMT) | Peru vs. Venezuela

Free: Chile

 Game 8

11.09.2012 | 16.30hs. (19.30 GMT) | Chile vs. Colombia

11.09.2012 | 18.30hs. (21.30 GMT) | Uruguay vs. Ecuador

11.09.2012 | 19.25hs. (23.25 GMT) |Venezuela vs Paraguay

11.09.2012 | 20.25hs. (25.01 GMT) | Peru vs. Argentina

More than just the Scorpion kick: Rene Higuita

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Pantomime villain Joey Barton recently received a 12 match ban for his behaviour on the last day of EPL season. The severity of the punishment has been debated at length but what is not in doubt is the recidivist nature of this repeat offender and his apparent refusal to learn from his mistakes.

From stubbing a cigarette in the eye of a youth player, attacking team-mates and opponents to serving 77 days in prison for common assault the QPR midfielder has a litany of misdeeds and he seems intent on adding to them in the future.

That being said despite having a record “as long as his arm” Barton still has a fair way to go to match the exploits of one of the most colourful goalkeepers of modern, football history: José René Higuita Zapata.

The goalkeeping idol impressed and horrified with equal measure and why he didn’t have his problems to speak off the pitch, in the main he was forgiven because he never failed to dazzle and entertain when playing for his country and many clubs.

For many the abiding memory of Colombia’s Rene “El Loco” Higuita will be his “Scorpion Kick” against England in the old Wembley Stadium in 1995. The game was inching along to a 0-0 draw when Jamie Redknapp mishit a shot/cross from the right hand side. Higuita, maybe bored with the evening’s events, needed only to catch the aimless ball but instead opted to dive forward and clear using the soles of his boots. It was a marvellous footballing moment which left the crowd and TV spectators enthralled and would become Higuita’s signature play piece .One that he would happily re-enact many more times in the future; mainly for the press.

“Some people say you have to be a little crazy to be a good goalkeeper,” Higuita told a journalist years later.

For “a little crazy” (or poco loco) we should read as mad as a bag of ferrets.

Alike many South American footballers a young Rene grew up in poverty. He was raised by his grandmother in a barrio of Medellin during a time when Colombia was plagued with violence and was fast turning into the world’s number one narco-state.

At 19 he made his league debut for Millonarios of Bogota, the historical giants of Colombian league football making 16 appearances and scoring 5 goals (a feat he would regularly go on to replicate).Despite this successful first season he opted to return home to Medellin and join his beloved Atletico Nacional who were being funded and largely controlled at the time by the infamous Pablo Escobar.

His new team-mates included the likes of Faustino Asprilla, Leonel Alvarez, Andres Escobar and Albeiro Usuriaga, who would all go on to be integral parts of the coming Colombian football renaissance. Under the tutelage of legend Fransisco “Choco” Maturana , Atletico became the first Colombian team to win the Copa Libertadores when they beat Olympia of Paraguay in one of the most famous of finals.

After clawing back a 2-0 deficit the 2nd league of the final in Bogota was tied 2-2 on aggregate and so moved onto penalties. The shoot-out presented the opportunity for Higuita to become the hero and it was an opportunity he did not waste. By this time Rene was a regular penalty taker so he stepped up to score Colombia’s third and save five of the opposition’s kicks, four of which were in sudden death. His last sudden death, penalty saves allowed Leonal Alvarez to claim the winner.

COPA LIBERTADORES FINAL 1989

When Choco Maturana took over Colombia for Italia 1990 he used Higuita and his Atletico team-mates as a base of the squad. Combined with Carlos Valderrama and Freddy Rincon they had an impressive squad of hungry, young players.

A 2-0 win against the United Arab Emirates, a 1-0 loss to Yugoslavia and a 1-1 dramatic, last ditch draw against West Germany saw them qualify for the next round for the first time. Their reward was a last 16 tie with the tournament surprise team Cameroon.

Almost as much as the “Scorpion kick” Rene Higuita is remembered for his mistake against Cameroon and their captain, Roger Milla.

To modern day supporters his daredevil antics near the centre circle appear foolhardy and selfish but that is to ignore the benefits of having a goalkeeper who also acted as a sweeper and creative influence upon the team. In addition to this he was an attacking option and a potent threat from set-pieces. Although his goal scoring record could not match a centre forward (or Jose Luis Chilavert) it puts many a defender or midfielders rate to shame. To have such an all-rounder must have been quite a weapon in your armoury especially as he was an accomplished shot stopper and top level goalkeeper to boot.

HIGUITA FREEKICK VS RIVER PLATE

His national manager (Choco Maturana) was certainly aware of these benefits claiming at the time:

“(Higuita) gives us something no one else has, and we take full advantage. With Rene as sweeper, we have 11 outfield players…. Jan Jongbloed, the Holland keeper in the 1974 World Cup, also operated as a sweeper. With a difference. The Dutchman came out just to boot the ball into the stands. Higuita can do much more.”

Unfortunately, this time Higuita came unstuck and was robbed of the ball far up the pitch leaving his goal open for Milla to slide home the decisive winner. He was made to look stupid as he scrambled back to his goal, this time his audacity and adventurous spirit resulted in Colombia’s elimination.

Rene vs Roger, Italia 1990

Despite their World Cup disappointment Colombia continued to blossom as an international force. Second and fourth places in the 1991 and 1993 Copa America’s were coupled with a first place position in the 1994 World Cup campaign.

A 5-0 final game defeat of Argentina, in Buenos Aires was the cherry on the cake. Now everyone had to sit up and take notice of the “Cafeteros”. Many, including Pele were touting them as favourites for the World Cup in USA.

But before this disaster had struck for Higuita struck in the form of Pablo Escobar and his corrosive, influence upon both the Colombian people and its football.

The fascinating documentary “the two Escobars” highlights the relationship between Rene Higuita and the infamous drug king-pin. The Zimbalist brother’s excellent piece of work directly correlates Colombia’s period of success with the Narco-lord’s age of rule and “El Loco” was right in the middle of this relationship.

FULL ESPN DOCUMENTARY “THE TWO ESCOBARS”

During the early nineties Colombia was actively trying to combat the narco -traffickers and improve its dreadful international reputation.

Escobar had been given a pseudo jail sentence by the authorities instead of extradition to the USA and a likely death penalty. His jail was a self-regulated palace located high in the mountains far away from the media spotlight. He still continued to control his empire and his power was such that he would summon the Colombian national team to play private matches in the “prison” courtyard/pitch. Whether the players wanted to play in these matches is debatable but I doubt many would openly defy the demands of noted gangster and mass-murderer.

Colombia’s Italia 1990 team

Higuita on the other hand seemed to enjoy a close relationship with Escobar: in much the same way as many of the 1960’s London based footballers mixed with the Krays and other cockney villains. When people grow up in poverty it creates a bond which is hard to break and forges lifelong friendships. While this may be incomprehensible to the more fortunate and higher classes it is normal for those less lucky. Regardless the goalkeeper felt no reason to publicly deny his and Escobar’s amity.

In 1993 when he decided to visit his old friend in prison the press were waiting for him. Footage of Higuita running from the reporters was beamed around Colombia and the world severely embarrassing the Colombian government and forcing them into action.

When Higuita was employed as an intermediary in a Medellin kidnapping case the authorities seized their opportunity to punish and exact retribution. Higuita received payment ($50,000) for his “go-between” duties and as a result it was argued that he had profited from the crime instead of informing the authorities.

The result was a seven month jail sentence which immediately ruled him out of the next year’s World Cup.

Without their goalkeeper USA 1994 was disastrous for Colombia. They were caught out against a counter-attacking Romania and the brilliant Hagi losing 3 – 1. Then came the 2 – 1 defeat to the USA and Andres Escobar’s own goal. In the end the 2 – o win against Switzerland was meaningless and they were home before the postcards.

It could be argued that a nervous Oscar Cordoba failed to inspire where Higuita had before, but considering the pressure they were under from personal and family death threats it was amazing they even entered the pitch. The murder of Andres Escobar shortly after further highlighted how poisonous life was for people at this time.

It was harsh lesson for Higuita. The government had deliberately made an example of the goalkeeper but at the same time they contributed to their football team’s demise. Although Carlos Valderrama was their captain Higuita was their leader and inspiration.

In much the same way as Alesandro Pirlo with his penalty against England, a leader can engender confidence in his team with acts of audacious skill and bravado. Nowadays commentators near wet themselves when a goalkeeper races up the pitch to try and meet a last minute cross or corner with a header. Higuita on the other hand could take the ball from his own box and dribble past the opposition or lay-off passes before even reaching the half way line.

With all that was hanging over them Colombia needed their talisman to bolster their shaken nerves. Incarcerating the footballer with trumped up charges was merely a smokescreen for the authorities’ displeasure of his relationship with Pablo Escobar.

His term of jail ended his World Cup career as by the time France 1998 he was much older and past his prime. For many of his former team-mates it proved also to be a tournament to far contributing again to early elimination. In 68 appearances he scored 3 goals for Colombia and played in the two Copa Americas and only one World Cup.

Although Rene ventured abroad during his career: Mexico (Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz or the Red Sharks of Veracruz), Spain (Real Valladolid) and Ecuador (Aucas) for single seasons it was Colombia that saw the best of Higuita with a variety of clubs, but most notably Atletico Nacional. He finally retired in 2010, after a couple of come-backs, with a total of 380 appearances and 25 goals a few and became a goalkeeping coach of Real Vallodolid then Al Nassr FC of Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

In a recent interview he professed his desire to continue in football saying:

“All athletes who play professional football have fun, and want to continue providing knowledge and keep having fun. I have the tactical, technical and physical knowledge, along with years of experience. God willing, some day I’ll have the opportunity.”

If he can somehow influence a next generation of players with his type of approach to the game through coaching or mentorship then maybe all is not lost.

He will always be associated with his acts of madness or genius by either admirers or detractors alike but what is of no doubt is there is a severe dearth of mavericks like him in the modern game.

Just like Maradona, Best and Gascoigne, Higuita was a flawed genius and it is probably these human deficiencies combined with their ability to marvel and astound that make us love and miss their likes all the more.

 

https://footballintheclouds.wordpress.com

Ecuador get back on track in World Cup qualifiers

Ecuador reinvigorated their World Cup qualifying campaign with a deserved victory against a poor Colombian team on Sunday afternoon.

“El Tri” dominated the match throughout and finally took the lead via the ex-Birmingham misfit Christian “Chucho” Benitez in 54 minutes; however the Ecuadorians second half profligacy almost cost them dear later when they lost Noboa to a needless red card on 86 minutes.

The Colombians rallied near the end and were victim of some poor officiating and penalty decisions. This prompted the “Cafeteros” to surround the referee at full time but they had little right of protest after a fairly, insipid display.

After last week’s humbling in Buenos Aires Ecuador needed to get their qualification campaign on track with a victory against Colombia. Lionel Messi had replicated his Barcelona form in the Monumental and ripped apart an Ecuadorian inexperienced defence at will.

The blame for this was left squarely at the feet of Ecuador’s, Columbian coach Reinalda Rueda. To many his tactics and inexperienced line-up choice was overly cavalier and baffling. Perhaps mindful of this Rueda opted to bring in Juan Carlos Paredes and Fricson Erazo to bolster the defence and Segundo Castillo and Jefferson Montero into midfield.

Much of the pre-match hype had concentrated on Falcoa, who had been linked to Chelsea and Barcelona in preceding weeks. The Atletico Madrid hit man had just had another free-scoring season in La Liga and the Europa Cup and his link up with Dorlan Pabon was felt to be a potent threat.

Unfortunately, they were as impressive and as explosive as a dead fish and the many Colombian supporters in the Atahualpa were left frustrated and bitterly, disappointed.

Ecuador controlled the midfield through the first half and many of their chances were created down the left wing and good link up play between Montero and Noboa. Unfortunately their last ball was often terrible. In addition Benitez looked slow and cumbersome in attack, often opting for long range efforts that smashed into the defence or skied high and wide.

The home crowd became audibly more animated every time Antonio Valencia received the ball but the Manchester United winger was unable to have a telling impact in the first half. Although he linked well with the marauding Paredes of Deportivo Quito, in the main he was well marked and covered. At times Ecuador seemed to concentrate their attacks on the right too much when the left was more successful.

Ecuador finally broke the deadlock just after half time. Walter Ayovi swung in a high ball that was deflected directly into the path of Benitez, who headed in from 5 yards to claim his 22nd goal for Ecuador. Boosted by his goal, Benitez became more animated  from then on and was unlucky to double his teams lead 10 minutes later. From fully 40 yards his fierce shot cannoned off the crossbar then to safety.

Benitez heads in the winning goal

From then on the game became scrappy and ill-tempered with both teams committing needless fouls. When Noboa scythed down Falcoa 86 minutes he had to walk setting into a motion a hectic last 10 minutes for the home side. In the end Ecuador held on for a valuable 3 points.

Ecuador has an awkward looking team and reminds me of one of the African teams of 1994 or 1998 World Cups. This is not because the majority of the players are of Afro-American decent but more because they a strong and athletic side which has plenty of speed although maybe at the expense of ball control and attacking ingenuity. On paper they cannot match other teams in terms of individual ability. They do not have a Messi  or Neymar to create chances and harness the creative impetuous of a game so depend on their pace and strength.

Valencia is their star and a fine player but not a game changer. He is capable of scoring goals but his influence is limited by his far right position for Ecuador.

On Sunday’s evidence Ecuador will find it hard to match the likes of Uruguay and Argentina away fromQuito. If they are going to claim an automatic qualification spot they must score more goals and record points away from the Atahaulpa.

CONMEBOL CURRENT STANDINGS

                                P              W               D            L                F           A       GD            Pts
  Chile                    6                4              0              2              11        10           1              12
  Uruguay               5              3              2              0              14           6           8              11
  Argentina            5              3              1              1              11           4            7              10
  Ecuador               5              3              0              2              6              6           0              9
  Venezuela          6              2              2              2              4              6              -2            8
 Colombia             5              2              1              2              5              5              0              7
 Bolivia                 6                1              1              4              7              11           -4            4
  Paraguay             5              1              1              3              4              9              -5            4
    Peru                    5                1              0              4              6              11          -5             3

With 9 points from 5 games and in 4rth position Ecuador have made a solid start to their campaign but the real effort will lie in their travels. They have 11 matches left to play and 6 of these are away from home. The Ecuadorians will have to create a Plan B if they are to progress to Brazil. If they lose Valencia or the opposition catch on to their reliance on the Manchester United player then Ecuador will be severely limited. Colombia can ill afford to lose many more points.

 

 

 

Ecuador’s remaining World Cup Qualification fixtures (home ties in yellow)

 

7 September 2012

Ecuador                v              Bolivia

11 September 2012

Uruguay               v             Ecuador

12 October 2012

Ecuador                v             Chile

 16 October 2012

Venezuela          v             Ecuador

26 March 2013

Ecuador                v             Paraguay

 7 June 2013

Peru      v              Ecuador

11 June 2013

Ecuador                v              Argentina

6 September 2013

Colombia            v              Ecuador

10 September 2013

Bolivia v              Ecuador

11 October 2013

Ecuador                v              Uruguay 

15 October 2013

Chile     v              Ecuador

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