Ecuador must beat Japan, get help from others to make Copa America quarters
By Sebastian Meresman
Ecuadorian national team coach Hernan "Bolillo" Gomez oversees a practice on June 19, 2019, at Barradao Stadium in Salvador, Brazil. EPA-EFE FILE/Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda
By Sebastian Meresman
Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Jun 23 (efe-epa).- Ecuador, which is last in Group C, is in danger of missing the Copa America quarterfinals.
The South American team will play surprising Japan, which was shut out by Chile and tied Uruguay, in a must-win match on Monday.
Ecuador heads into the clash with a 13-match Copa America losing streak at the hands of South American rivals.
The squad last won a Copa America match in 2001, when it blew out Venezuela 4-0.
Coach Hernan "Bolillo" Gomez, who has been unhappy with his players' performance, has still not decided on a starting lineup for the match against Japan.
"They score two goals on us, one on a corner (kick) and the other putting the ball into play, unbelievable any way you look at it. Have a good evening, hugs for all and excuse me because I prefer not to talk the way I'm feeling," Gomez said during a 45-second press conference following Chile's 2-1 win over his squad.
Gomez made six lineup changes against Chile after being blown out by Uruguay 4-0 in his team's tournament debut.
Ecuador must beat Japan at Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte and get help from other teams to advance to the Copa America quarters.
Gomez's squad needs Paraguay to lose or tie against Colombia and a tie between Argentina and Qatar to make it into the quarterfinals.
Enner Valencia, who has scored Ecuador's only goal in the Copa, said the team "must win," adding that having to depend on the results of other matches was less than ideal.
Ecuadorian national team captain Gabriel Achillier will not be able to play against Japan after being tossed from the match against Chile.
Japan, for its part, brought a young team to the Copa America, with 18-year-old Takefusa Kubo, who was recently signed by Real Madrid for its B-squad, one of the players in the lineup.
The Japanese squad appeared to be in over its head during the 4-0 blowout by Chile, but the team bounced back against Uruguay, playing the South Americans to a 2-2 tie on Thursday.
Japan's surprising tie against Uruguay, the team considered by many the favorite to win the tournament title, gave it an opportunity to make the quarterfinals.
"This tie is about growing because Uruguay is a top soccer team. This point is going to be about development and giving us confidence. Uruguay is a very tough team and we managed to work it equal to equal, to withstand their power," Japanese national team coach Hajime Moriyasu said.
If Japan beats Ecuador, it would be third in Group C, with four points, and the team's chances of advancing to the quarterfinals would be based on goal differential, unless Argentina and Qatar tie on Sunday and Paraguay fails to beat Colombia.
In that case, Japan will book a spot in the quarters simply by beating reeling Ecuador.
Kubo, Japan's star, started against Chile but played less than 10 minutes against Uruguay.
The teenage midfielder is expected to start against Ecuador along with Koji Miyoshi and Shoya Nakajima, who played solidly against Uruguay.
- Projected lineups:
Ecuador: Alexander Dominguez; Pedro Pablo Velasco, Robert Arboleda, Arturo Mina, Cristian Ramirez; Carlos Gruezo, Jefferson Orejuela, Sebastian Mendez; Romario Ibarra, Angel Mena and Enner Valencia.
Coach: Hernan Dario Gomez
Japan: Eiji Kawashima; Tomoki Iwata, Naomichi Ueda, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Daiki Sugioka; Koji Miyoshi, Takefusa Kubo, Gaku Shibasaki, Shoya Nakajima; Hiroki Abe; and Shinji Okazaki
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu