Our run down of the teams involved in the 2011 Copa America, which kicks off on July 1, continues with a closer look at Ecuador.
The new millennium saw an upturn in the fortunes of the Ecuadorian national team as they reached their first World Cup finals in 2002 before reaching the knock-out stages four years later. La Tri looked like they had turned the corner but an inability to find quality replacements for stalwarts such as Ulises de la Cruz and Agustín Delgado saw them missing out on a trip to South Africa. Ecuador have failed to get past the group stage of the Copa América on their previous four attempts.
Momento de gloria
Ecuador gave their home crowd plenty to celebrate when they hosted the 1993 Copa América. The goals flowed in their opener against Venezuela as six different Ecuadorians got on the scoresheet in a comprehensive victory. La Tri’s good form continued with wins against the USA and Uruguay as they finished top of Group A with maximum points. Ecuador went on to make light work of Paraguay in the quarter-final with Eduardo Hurtado grabbing his third of the tournament in a 3-0 win, later in his career Hurtado would be brought to Hibernian by Alex McLeish. Ecuador’s tournament was eventually ended by a Hugo Sánchez inspired Mexican team in the semi-finals.
El director técnico
Reinaldo Rueda is a member of the new breed of coaches that never played football professionally. He was given his first taste of international management with the youth ranks of his native Colombia. Some impressive results led to a brief spell in charge of the senior Colombian team before a harsh sacking. He was given a chance to resurrect his career with Honduras and repaid their faith by guiding them to the 2010 World Cup. Despite taking the reigns of Ecuador less than a year ago he has already ruffled some feathers with the inclusion of Argentinian born Norberto Araujo at the expense of some high profile Ecuadorians.
Versatile left-footer Walter Ayoví plays his club football with Monterrey in Mexico and has been a key member of their title winning teams in recent years. Ayoví was a surprise inclusion in Ecuador’s squad for the 2002 World Cup where he was an unused substitute. The boot was on the other foot four years later however when Ayoví found himself left behind for the trip to Germany despite playing the majority of his nation’s qualifiers. Ayoví’s solid all round game allows him to slot in on the left side of defence or midfield as well as do a job in the middle of the park. The man they call Macaco also has a wicked shot from range as he demonstrated in Ecuador’s 2-0 win over Argentina during the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Like many deadly South American strikers in recent times, such as Humberto Suazo and Salvador Cabañas, it was in Mexico that Christian Benítez’s quality came to the fore. Benítez was born into Ecuadorian footballing royalty with his father, Ermen Benítez, the domestic league’s all-time leading goal getter. El Chucho has put a miserable spell with Birmingham City behind him and returned to Mexico where he has rediscovered his scoring touch. With time on his side Benítez is on course to over take Agustín Delgado and finish his career as la Tri’s all-time top goalscorer.
When Antonio Valencia suffered a broken leg last year the pain was felt way beyond the confines of Salford. Football fans in Quito and Guayaquil gathered to pray for Toño’s speedy recovery and it looks as though somebody up there was listening. The presence of the only Ecuadorian to win the Premier League and play in a Champions League final gives fans and the rest of the squad a huge boast ahead of this Copa América.
Since winning his first international cap at the age of 16 whilst on the books at FC Basel the career of Felipe Caicedo has been eventful to say the least. His €7 million transfer to Manchester City smashed the previous record fee paid for an Ecuadorian and after getting off to a flyer he seemed set to shine. However, an influx of strikers at Eastlands saw Caicedo’s opportunities limited and a succession of loan moves followed. Last season his goals saved Levante from dropping out of La Liga and the €1 million buy-up clause in his contract will see the Spanish side making a tidy profit on the player into the bargain.
The injury suffered by wideman Luis Saritama in the Quito derby just weeks before the Copa América eased Rueda’s decision to leave him out. While Giovanni Nazareno was called up to replace Saritama there is no place in the squad for talents such as Joao Rojas, Carlos Quiñonez, Jefferson Montero and Joffre Guerrón.
Rumores de transferencia
Felipe Caicedo to Aston Villa, Christian Benítez to Celtic
Before Ecuador faced England in the last 16 of the 2006 World Cup their former captain Álex Aguinaga sounded out a warning to the Three Lions, “We will beat you and your WAGS will be to blame”. Since then Ecuadorians seem to take a more enlighten approach to the role of significant others. Christian Noboa feels he owes his excellent career in Russia to wife Olga Romanova, the couple were wed in Guayaquil cathedral in 2010.
Síguelo en Twitter
@AntoV25 - THANK YOU TO MY GOD AND MANCHESTER FOR GIVE ME THIS HAPPINESS.
La opinión experta
To be honest we are very unsure in Ecuador about how this tournament is going to go for us. It seems to me that the team just aren’t ready for the Copa América but that things will fall into place in time for the World Cup qualifiers. We have a strong group of players, they are professional in their attitude and they play in top leagues all over the world. It just doesn’t seemed to have clicked yet with Rueda’s 4-4-2 formation. I think the coach has done well to bring in Norberto Araujo and that the process to reach the next World Cup is underway. However, people in Ecuador have started to call Rueda the ‘King of Draws’ and he was booed after the friendly match with Mexico. Many sections of the press are attacking Rueda but he has continued to conduct himself with dignity. In this Copa América we face tough tests against Brazil and Paraguay and the game with Venezuela is the crucial fixture for us.
Diego Arcos - TC Televisión
With no aspirations to win the tournament Rueda will be content to run the rule over his squad during some competitive action. The head coach will really start earning his money when the qualification matches for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil roll around so any information he can glean about his players in Argentina will be a bonus.
There are no easy points up for grabs in the tournament’s group of death. Expect Rueda to try and save face against Brazil, compete with Paraguay and beat Venezuela in an effort to progress to the knock-out rounds. Ecuador are going no further than the quarter-finals.
¿Por qué ser fanático?
When the US military’s lease came up on the Manta air base situated on Ecuador’s pacific coast Washington politely requested an extension. The response that came from Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa sent shock waves throughout the entire Americas. The left leaning leader replied, “We'll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami -- an Ecuadorean base.”
¿Un club en League Two?
It took a visit from Shrewsbury’s most famous son to the Galápagos Islands for science to take a timely lead against religion. Ecuador now invites all fans of the Shrews to look upon their country’s immaculately preserved Gay Meadows in exchange for a ticket to the town’s annual flower show.
Chug down the Happy Japa and mop up the aguado de gallína as the sanjuanitos sound washes down Calle Amazonas. Throw open the Ecuadors of perception!
The rocky landscape of Valle del Chota in northern Ecuador rarely gives the local fruit farmers much to cheer about. One bumper crop the region has been harvesting on a regular basis however is highly talented footballers. The remote Andes village with a population of 25,000 produced seven members of Hernán Darío Gómez’s 23-man squad for Ecuador’s trip to the 2002 World Cup. Among the players hailing from the region were Agustín Delgado, Édison Méndez and Ulises de la Cruz.
Goalkeepers: Marcelo Elizaga (Deportivo Quito, ECU), Máximo Banguera (Barcelona, ECU), Alexander Domínguez (Liga de Quito, ECU).
Defenders: Gabriel Achilier (Emelec, ECU), Frickson Erazo (El Nacional, ECU), Geovanny Nazareno (Barcelona, ECU), Luis Checa (Deportivo Quito, ECU), Geovanny Caicedo, Norberto Araujo, Diego Calderón and Néicer Reascos (Liga de Quito, ECU).
Midfielders: Walter Ayoví (Monterrey, MEX), Segundo Castillo and Oswaldo Minda (Deportivo Quito, ECU), Cristian Noboa (Rubín Kazán, RUS), David Quiroz and Édison Méndez (Emelec, ECU), Antonio Valencia (Manchester Utd, ENG), Michael Arroyo (San Luis, MEX).
Forwards: Felipe Caicedo (Levante, SPA), Narciso Mina (Ind José Terán, ECU), Jaime Ayoví (Pachuca, MEX), Christian Benítez (América, MEX).
v Paraguay 03/07/2011 18:30 Sante Fé
v Venezuela 09/07/2011 18:30 Salta
v Brazil 13/07/2011 21:45 Córdoba
FIFA ranking: 64
Odds to win: 50/1
Copa America record: P110 W14 D19 L77 F117 A301
Copa America best: Fourth place finishes in 1953 and 1993
More teams will follow in this daily series. Plus, for more on Copa America 2011, listen to The South American Football Show.