Ecuador’s second Group F game of the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup saw them come a cropper against a well-organised Saudi Arabia side. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the match and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-tracking…
(Source: Wikipedia – Check here for all other results, fixtures and standings)
Ecuador 1-2 Saudi Arabia
2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Group F, 25 May 2017 (YouTube)
Following on from being forced to settle for a point against the USA, Javier Rodríguez’s young chaps were unable to regain any momentum against Saudi Arabia, leaving their qualification hopes on the brink.
Their Middle Eastern opponents took the lead after 7 minutes when Ayman Al Khulaif impressively waltzed past an opponent on his inside-right before sliding to Abdulrahman Al Yami who clinically struck home inside the area. Subsequently, aside from Pervis Estupiñán hitting the post in the 27th minute, Ecuador struggled to create many clear opportunities in the first half; that is, until they were afforded a chance to level things up at the very end when a soft penalty was awarded. However, their topscorer Bryan Cabezas – who had been a rare bright spark over on the left flank – failed to convert, instead seeing his spot-kick parried out.
Into the second half, the Saudis initially looked relatively comfortable though La Mini Tri did gradually make more inroads, causing much concern in the area and even hitting the crossbar. However, somewhat against the run of the play, it was not they who notched the game’s second goal but instead Al Yami, who once again combined with Al Khulaif to double his tally, making it 2-0 in the 84th minute. Just before the end of regulation time, Ecuador managed to get a goal back, courtesy of a back post tap-in from substitute Jordy Caicedo. Ultimately, however, they fell short and will probably need a win in their final game if they are to sneak into the next round.
Once again, left-back Pervis Estupiñán (No. 6, Granada, Spain) demonstrated that he is probably better suited to a position further upfield. Indeed, in the 27th minute he was unlucky not to score when he struck a loose ball with the inside of his trusty left boot, hitting the post. However, the restating of this assessment is less due to his forward exploits but more his defensive shortcomings. On the first goal, he was easily bypassed by Al Khulaif who then set-up Al Yami and on the second, he was well out of position, having to huff back in vain as Al Khulaif ran down his flank, crossing low for Al Yami to double the scoreline. This area of the pitch is a liability for the attack-minded South Americans and it will surely be targeted by Senegal in the decisive encounter on Sunday.
Moving onto to those who were actually designated from the off in positions further upfield, even if their opponents sometimes looked good value for their lead, Ecuador’s attackers did manage to conjure up a fair few chances. Indeed, though nobody put in a vintage performance, in the first half at least, Bryan Cabezas (No. 10, Atalanta) impressed out on the left wing, beating defenders and firing balls into the area. However, after failing from the spot just before the whistle for the break, his influence – and perhaps, his confidence – decreased.
Herlin Lino (No. 9, Deportivo Cuenca) had his moments in both halves. In the first period, it was he who bombed down the left before cutting back and watching on as Estupiñán struck the post. He was also the man who won Cabezas’ penalty – having also been fouled for three spot-kicks in qualifying, this appears to be quite a curious asset to his game. In the second half, he was often in and around the box, notably having a header tipped against the crossbar after muscularly latching onto a 78th-minute cross from Angelo Preciado (No. 2, Independiente del Valle). Barely a minute later, he possibly could have done better when his close-range rebound was parried by the goalkeeper.
This came after substitute Joao Rojas (No. 17, Emelec) – who impressed in spells, adding some much needed focus to attacks – played a pinpoint ball into the area which fellow sub Jordy Caicedo (No. 19, Universidad Católica del Ecuador) controlled well before having his effort saved from a sudden one-on-one position. Caicedo, of course, got on the scoresheet 11 minutes later when he tapped in a low cross from Preciado, following good work from Rojas, Lino and others on the periphery of the area. Earlier on, just three minutes after coming off the bench in the 63rd minute, Caicedo also had another opportunity when he just about reached a through ball, though the goalkeeper did well to stick out a leg and block from barely a yard or two away.
Ecuador had a few other lesser opportunities yet, though they provided further evidence that they are not short of talented attackers, they lacked the killer touch. Still, all is not lost just yet and so, hopefully for their own sake, they will be able to regroup, entering their last game hell-bent on gaining three much-needed points.
In the other Group F game played today, USA defeated Senegal 1-0, who will be Ecuador’s final group opponents on Sunday 28 May 2017.
To keep up-to-date with the latest news on the South American nations at South Korea 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter and check back to Hispanospherical.com for match-by-match talent-tracking articles.