Following a brief tournament overview of Ecuador’s performance at the FIFA 2017 Under-20 World Cup, below are some summaries of several players worth keeping an eye on. As La Mini-Tri struggled to give the best account of themselves, those seeking more information on these individuals may wish to also take a look at their respective exploits in qualification as well as, perhaps, this site’s preview for the Under-20 World Cup.
Bryan Cabezas celebrating with Pervis Estupiñán following the former’s second goal against the USA (GettyImages)
Seven minutes into their opener with the USA, Javier Rodríguez’s men were 2-0 up and looked to be on course to not only win the game but also do some serious head-turning at the tournament. However, they were pegged back and, despite regaining the lead, were thwarted at the death, gaining a solitary point in a 3-3 draw. They lost further ground in the subsequent encounter with Saudi Arabia, going down 2-1 and yet, despite entering their final game with their fate still in their hands, could only manage a drab 0-0 draw against Senegal. Thus, the team who began Group F all guns blazing ultimately suffered the ignominy of being the only side not to progress.
Overall, though the leakiness of their defence was again on display, La Mini-Tri did also show that they possess some strong and/or pacy attackers. However, while it should not be forgotten that simply qualifying for the World Cup is an impressive achievement in itself, the forwards and attacking-midfielders – particularly after that dream start against the USA – will surely go home feeling that things could have been quite different indeed.
Bryan Cabezas (Attacking-midfielder/Forward, No. 10, Atalanta)
As with the other Ecuadorian attackers, the former Independiente Del Valle man may feel he was unable to give a true demonstration of his abilities, though at least in his case he can say that he certainly had his moments. Indeed, he scored twice against the USA, the first involving some nice control and a rapid stepover, culminating with a rifled shot past the goalkeeper; the second, on the other hand, was a punishing low strike following some amateurish dilly-dallying from goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann. Along with the goals, he also impressed on his left flank, charging at defenders and putting in balls. He continued in this vein against Saudi Arabia yet, after he failed to convert from the spot at the end of the first half, his influence began to wain, both in this game as well as in the tournament as a whole. Nevertheless, having also scored five goals in qualifying, two from three games is not a bad haul and one can only hope he enjoys more domestic action next season after a year largely on the bench in Serie A.
Herlin Lino (Forward, No. 9, Deportivo Cuenca)
Aside from Cabezas, there were a number of other attackers vying for attention and, though some may disagree, it seemed to these eyes that Lino came away with most credit. Indeed, he played every minute of the tournament and scored his nation’s opening goal against USA, a strike into a virtually unguarded goal following a cutback. In this as well as the subsequent game against Saudi Arabia, he had other strikes on target and also helped set up at least one opportunity of note for a team-mate. However, perhaps most notably, in this second match he exhibited his remarkable propensity for winning penalties, with the one he gained for Cabezas coming off the back of three he impressively forced out of opponents in qualifying.
Pervis Estupiñán (Left-back, No. 6, Granada, on loan from Watford)
It was Estupiñán who picked up the loose ball helped on by Lino in the area against Saudi Arabia, which he struck against the post. However, overall, it really was a tournament to forget for the rampaging left-back as not only did he get forward far less than in qualifying – during which he scored an eye-catching four times – but he also provided more evidence that perhaps that defending lark isn’t really for him. Indeed, for every single one of the five goals his country conceded, he was in some way at least partially culpable, either by being bypassed, not closing down an opponent who put in a decisive ball and/or huffing back in vain unable to halt the inevitable. Despite this eyebrow-raising record, he is still a player to watch out for, but needs to muck in more at the back and/or ask to be fielded further up the park.
Otherwise, there were several more players in the Ecuadorian ranks who showed glimpses of their potential, but were unable to play particularly decisive roles.
There was the captain Jordan Sierra (Midfielder, No. 15, Delfin), who got forward less than he did in qualifying, being instead more preoccupied with trying to halt opponents from making inroads centrally.
Joao Rojas (Midfielder, No. 17, Emelec), who impressed in the early stages of qualifying before being benched, was a substitute for the the first two tournament games. However, he did occasionally cause problems – it was he who closed down USA goalkeeper Klinsmann to hurry him into the error which led to Cabezas’ second goal – and thus he was rewarded with a start in the final game, where he had the best chance to score with a low shot from the edge of the area.
Rojas’ position on the right of midfield was initially occupied by Wilter Ayoví (Midfielder, No. 8, Independiente Del Valle), who was a lively presence in spells during qualifying, yet his World Cup only lasted 57 minutes of the opener plus a further five minutes of the final encounter.
The most notable moment from the pacy Washington Corozo (Forward, No. 7, Independiente Del Valle) – who started all three games – came after five minutes of the opener when he beat a man on the left before setting up Lino to make it 1-0.
Lastly, Jordy Caicedo (Forward, No. 19, Universidad Católica del Ecuador) got on the scoresheet against Saudi Arabia with a back post tap-in and also had other opportunities in that match. Having scored three times in qualifying as well as already netted several times at club level, it will be interesting to see where his career takes him but he’s certainly got some task on his hands if he is to emulate his more illustrious namesake.