Manager: Reinaldo Rueda
Group: B (with Venezuela, Brazil and Paraguay)
Copa America title betting odds: 50/1
Qualifying for quarter-finals odds: 3/4
Group winner odds: 8/1
Finishing in the top two in group odds: 8/5
Copa America 2007 performance: Group stage
Best Copa America performance: Fourth place (1959, 1993)
How are they shaping up?
Not great is the short answer. Despite a squad boasting several players who ply their trade at top clubs across Europe and the Americas, Ecuador have been in poor form so far in 2011. They have played eight friendlies since January but have not registered a single win, despite facing beatable opposition such as Greece, Peru and Canada. In fact, they shared the spoils in six of those fixtures, much to the frustration of their fans, who have dubbed Rueda ‘the King of Draws’.
Their World Cup 2010 qualification campaign did not go much better, as they finished in sixth place, meaning they missed out on the tournament for the first time since 1998. There is an acceptance back home that the team are in transition, with the Copa America representing decent preparation for the start of long road to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. However, there is also growing discontent about Rueda’s 4-4-2 formation and the coach was abused by supporters during a recent friendly reverse against Mexico in Quito, as well as receiving plenty of flak in the press.
Arriving in Argentina against this backdrop, it would appear to suggest that Ecuador may struggle to perform to their best, particularly as they find themselves in the ‘Group of Death’ alongside Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela. Nevertheless, if Rueda, who guided Honduras to the 2010 World Cup, can fire his players up to produce the sort of performances which saw them take four points off Argentina in their bid to reach South Africa, Ecuador should be able to hold their own.
Caps: 46 Goals: 5
When Valencia picked up a serious ankle injury while playing for Manchester United against Rangers last September, the news was greeted with widespread despair in Ecuador. The reaction underlined just how important the winger is to his national team, and having finally returned to fitness in the second half of the season, he will be desperate to show what he can do at the Copa America.
Ecuador also have a potent strikeforce in the shape of Christian Benitez and Felipe Caicedo. Benitez flopped during a stint with Birmingham City but is back among the goals at Mexican side America, while Caicedo’s impressive performances helped minnows Levante to survive in La Liga. For the duo to shine they will need service, which is why Valencia’s direct running and superb crossing ability will be crucial to Ecuador’s hopes of success in Argentina.
Other players to look out for are skipper Walter Ayovi, experienced midfielder Edison Mendez and Christian Noboa, who impressed for Rubin Kazan in the Champions League last term.
On paper, Ecuador have a squad capable of upsetting the odds against the leading lights on their day, as they can even afford to leave out the likes of Joffre Guerron and Jefferson Montero. Their number one objective will presumably be to beat Venezuela and then try to carve out results against either Paraguay or Brazil.
However, beating the supposed Group B outsiders will be far from straightforward, as they lost home and away to them in 2010 World Cup qualifying. They should have enough quality to reach the quarter-finals, which would be an achievement in itself, as they have failed to get past the group stages in their past four appearances. But the general feeling is that Ecuador are a team in transition and are unlikely to pose a real threat to the big guns at the Copa America on this occasion.
Verdict: Eliminated in quarter-finals
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