Sixto out, Gustavo in

True to form Sixto Vizuete was given the heave-ho today after barely 6 months in charge of El Nacional.

To be fair he can have little complaint as his team have been consistently awful under his charge and are in serious threat of being one of the two teams relegated from the Serie A.

El Nacional is the army team of Ecuador and similar Athletic Bilboa and Chivas Guadalajara they only pick players from their respective countries/states. Obviously the suits upstairs have panicked after the latest defeat and opted to bring a fresh face.

 

They have pinched Gustavo Luis Soler from Deportivo Quito, an Argentinian with a solid playing career in Spain and Argentina behind him and a slew of coaching positions around South America.

His task will be to keep El Nacional in the top division and avoid disastrous relegation/ 

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No more apparent than this is Hampden Park where the famous Hampden roar has been replaced by the Hampden moan or muffled groan.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

Top ten goalscorers in CONMEBOL qualification

With Lionel Messi and Gonzolo Higuain with 6 goals a piece it’s easy to see why Argentina are top of the CONMEBOL qualification table. 

Although Luis Suarez is notoriously profligate for Liverpool for his national team he is on fire.

While Falcao rattles them in for club and country alike is price tag rises and rises. A buy out clause of £54 million looks like a bargain in contrast to Fernando Torres.

Of all the players on the list Felilpe Caicedo, once of Manchester City is the man with the top form. His return to Ecuador’s first team has been integral to their rise up the table with 4 goals in 3 matches.

 

 

1. G. Higuain (Argentina) 6
2. L. Messi (Argentina) 6
3. L. Suarez (Uruguay) 6
4. Falcao García R. (Colombia) 5
5. F. Caicedo (Ecuador) 4
6. S. Agüero (Argentina) 3
7. Benitez C. (Ecuador) 3
8. Farfán J. (Peru) 3
9. M. Fernández (Chile) 3
10. P. Guerrero (Peru) 3

Fans are ripped off of in the SPL.

On Saturday I was afforded the rare chance to take in two Serie A games in one afternoon, in the same stadium.

Although it was an early start: 10.45, AFNA (the state football authority) offered both matches for $10 or around £6.20. An amazing price considering you can’t even get a pie and a couple of cokes for £6.20 in the majority of the stadiums back home.

In the SPL you pay around £20-24 for a match day ticket and the standard of football is way below the Ecuadorian Serie A.

The IFFHS (International Federation of Football History and Statistics) recently rated Ecuador’s Serie A at 14th in world, while Scotland’s top tier at 25th. So it seems the Scottish supporters are paying 5 times the price for an inferior product.

In my opinion, Ecuador’s professional players have far more technique and skill than their Scottish counterparts as a result the entertainment is more pleasing to the eye.

Of course the safety standards of Scottish and English stadiums are far better but this still doesn’t account for such a huge difference in price. And remember Ecuador’s currency is the American dollar and the cost of living is not hugely different to the UK.

Plainly speaking we are ripped off in Scotland.

Tight at the top of CONMEBOL table

After a poor start, Colombia got their campaign back on track in dramatic fashion on Tuesday. Following on from their excellent 4 – 0 win against Uruguay on Friday “El cafeteros” turned over Chile 3 – 1 in Santiago.

Falcao

Colombia’s Falcoa celebrates

Despite going behind just before half-time through Matias Fernandez, Colombia rallied in the second half with goals from Rodriguez, Falcoa and Gutierrez. Both teams finished the match with ten men.

Uruguay eventually managed to scrape a draw against Ecuador, thanks largely to a totally inept refereeing display form Carlos Amarilla. The Ecuadorians had the measure of their hosts for the majority of the game and deservedly went ahead through a Felipe Caicedo penalty in 9 minutes. Edison Cavani restored parity in 67 minutes for Uruguay but not before Ecuador was denied a stone-wall penalty.

Caicedo for Ecuador

Christain Benitez had raced forward upon goal but when he rounded the keeper he was crudely, bundled to the ground.  A penalty and goal-keeper red card seemed obvious but the referee opted to book Benitez for diving. To rub salt into their wounds the referee also sent off Ecuador’s captain and talisman Antonio Valencia. The Manchester United winger now automatically misses the next two games.

Chile          1-3       Colombia

Uruguay       1-1     Ecuador

Paraguay     0-2      Venezuela

     Peru        1-1       Argentina

 

Paraguay tumbled to another defeat realistically ending their qualification chances for Brazil 2014. This is all the more surprising with consideration that they have qualified for the last 4 World Cups and improved each time. Salomon Rondon grabbed a gaol either side of half time for Venezuela to earn a precious away win.

 

In Lima, Peru recorded a credible draw against group favourites Argentina. The hosts had already missed a third minute penalty before took the lead in 22 minutes through Eintracht Frankfurt’s Carlos Zambrano. Argentina’s Higuian got the equalizer just before half-time.

 

 

 

 

 

CONMEBAL Qualification table

Team         P        W      D       L        GF     GA    Pts

Argentina      7              4              2              1              15           6              14

Colombia       7              4              1              2              12           6              13

Ecuador           7              4              1              2              8              7              13

Uruguay          7              3              3              1              15           11           12

Chile                 7               4              0              3              12           13           12

Venezuela    8              3              2              3              7              8              11

Peru                  7                2              1              4              9              13           7

Bolivia             7               1              1              5              7              12           4

Paraguay        7              1              1              5              5              14           4

This month’s double header results have left Bolivia and Paraguay rooted to the bottom of the table adrift of everyone else.  With 4 points separating the top 6 teams and only 4 automatic qualification spots there is all to play for.

Uruguay has suffered the greatest with a 4 – o humbling and a poor home draw and they must improve if they don’t want to slide further down the table. Similarly Chile has lost form after leading the table.

Colombia and Ecuador are the major surprises so far but again next month’s results should tell us much more.

Next month’s CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying fixtures.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2012

Argentina            v             Uruguay

Bolivia  v             Peru

Colombia            v             Paraguay

Ecuador                v             Chile

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2012

Bolivia  v             Uruguay

Chile     v             Argentina

Paraguay             v             Peru

Venezuela          v             Ecuador

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.

Starting Eleven for Friday’s day versus Bolivia

It’s hard predict Reinalda Ruelda’s starting 11 but with help form my school’s security guard i have managed to whittle them down to the following.

DOMINGUEZ, (LIGA DE QUITO)
  AYOVI,  (MONTERREY, MÉXICO)                                            PAREDES,  (DEP QUITO)             
CAMPOS,  (BARCELONA)     ERAZO,  (BARCELONA)
MONTERO, (MORELIA , MÉXICO)
                                                                                     ANTONIO VALENCIA (MAN UTD)
         
CASTILLO,  (PACHUCA , MÉXICO)  
SARITAMA,  (DEPORTIVO QUITO)
                    
                  AYOVI,  (AL NASSR,SAUDI ARABI)
                            MINA, (BARCELONA)

Christain Benitiz and Christain Noboa are both suspended until the Uruguay game and Luis Saritama is a doubt after picking up an injury.

Typically Valencia and Montero should complement attack with bombing runs down the wings.