Tag Archives: Wilter Ayoví

Ecuador 3-3 USA (Group F, 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, 22 May 2017)

Ecuador’s opening Group F game of the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup saw them get off to a brilliant start yet were ultimately denied all three points at the very end by an irrepressible USA. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the match and, most importantly, @DarrenSphericals armchair talent-tracking…

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(Source: Wikipedia – Check here for all other results, fixtures and standings)

Ecuador 3-3 USA

2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Group F, 22 May 2017 (YouTube)

Javier Rodríguez’s men were fast out of the traps yet were to be prevented at the death of claiming three points in this entertaining inauguration of Group F. They were 2-0 up within seven minutes as first Herlín Lino slotted into the net following some good flank-work from Washington Corozo then, two minutes later, Bryan Cabezas did great to worm away from a defender before firing home. However, in this rather open encounter, opportunities never seemed too far away and, though the Americans at times struggled with the Ecuadorians’ physicality and pace, they did gradually regroup. In the 36th minute, they halved the deficit as the impressive Luca de la Torre of Fulham roamed forward in the centre, laying the ball to 17-year-old Josh Sargent, who struck low into the back of the net.

Buoyed by this, USA stepped things up and, nine minutes after the restart, got their equaliser when Sargent notched his second, a close-range header which greeted a fine ball from Brooks Lennon on the right. However, their South American opponents were not primed to roll over for the inevitable, insteading persevering to make their presence felt. That said, when they regained the lead on 64 minutes, they received more than a bit of help from goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann (yes, son of Jürgen, who was in the stands). He had previously made a fine close-range stop but here, he dilly-dallied on a pass back and, under pressure, could only knock it straight out to Cabezas, who was able to place it past him. Subsequently, the game did not have as many clear-cut opportunities and it looked as if La Mini Tri were going to clinch a victory. However, in the fourth minute of stoppage-time, another testing cross from Lennon was poorly dealt with by an Ecuador defender, who headed it directly into the path of de la Torre. His low strike thus ended the affair all square.

Talent Tracking

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As they did on home soil during the qualifying campaign, the yellow-and-blue boys showed that they have an array of speedy and strong attackers at their disposal. Indeed, early on, Washington Corozo (No. 7, Independiente Del Valle) made a vital contribution when he gave a demonstration of his pace, bursting past a defender into the area, then nudging it away from the oncoming Klinsmann at the crucial moment. This cut-back left Herlín Lino (No. 9, Deportivo Cuenca) with a virtually unguarded goal to strike into for the fifth-minute opener. Later on in the 56th minute Lino had a good chance to double his tally when he was spotted by the central Wilter Ayoví (No. 8, Independiente Del Valle) – who quietly impressed earlier this year and was given a start here – but the shot was well blocked by Klinsmann.

Lino looked rather alert but Ecuador’s main man was again their topscorer in qualifying, left-sided forward Bryan Cabezas (No. 10, Atalanta), who netted twice. His first goal, which came after seven minutes, allowed him to show off his attributes with quick-fire aplomb. This arrived following a pass from midfielder Jhonny Quiñónez (No. 16, Norte América), who was a somewhat curious inclusion in the line-up as he wasn’t in the qualifying squad and hasn’t actually made any club appearances this year. From this, Cabezas controlled with his left, before a rapid stepover and another touch gave him the space he needed to rifle home inside the area. In the second half, the attacker who impressed with Cinderella story Independiente Del Valle in last year’s Copa Libertadores doubled his account after the pressure Joao Rojas (No. 17, Emelec) put Klinsmann under was evidently too much for the goalkeeper to handle, with his shaky clearance falling to the feet of the wrong man. This gift was thus comfortably dispatched to make it 3-2, allowing Cabezas to announce himself as the tournament’s joint-top scorer with Sargent.

Otherwise, though it was a strong performance in the final third, it seems that the defence is still every bit the liability that it was in qualifying. Indeed, though left-back Pervis Estupiñán (No. 6, Granada, Spain) is very much a prospect going forward, he again provided evidence that his defensive work and/or communication can be somewhat suspect. It may be debatable how much precisely he was at fault – those to his right as well as in front are certainly also culpable to varying degrees – but the bald facts are that the first goal involved a pass going between him and the centre-backs and the last two were the result of crosses from his flank. On each, he was not even close to the danger men and Lennon, in particular, had much joy throughout the second half spraying in balls from his side. Perhaps those in front who sometimes covered for him following his upfield gallivanting were also guilty and the last goal was certainly more the fault of the defender who, instead of clearing, headed the ball directly to de la Torre. All the same, the entire back line as well as the defensive-midfielders who occasionally allowed the USA to roam centrally really need to tighten things up at the back if Ecuador are to make any serious inroads at this tournament.

In the other Group F game played today, Senegal won 2-0 against Saudi Arabia, who will be Ecuador’s next opponents on Thursday 25 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.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup – Preview of the Top South American Talents

2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup – Preview of the Top South American Talents

This Saturday, 20 May 2017, ushers in the 23-day 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, held in South Korea. Following an opening stage that shall see a generous 16 nations emerge from the six groups of four teams (the top two from each, plus the four best-performing runners-up), the knock-out phase will ultimately provide a winner on Sunday 11 June 2017. Throughout all of this, @DarrenSpherical will be keeping track of the four South American qualifiers – Uruguay, Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina – providing match-by-match updates on their most eye-catching talents. Thus, what follows below is a concise guide to a handful (or so) of players from each country to look out for. Those after a little more information on the majority of these embryonic cracks could certainly do worse than also check out this talent-spotting round-up from January/February’s 2017 CONMEBOL Under-20 South American Youth Championship.


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Uruguay

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(Uruguay’s Group D fixtures via FIFA.com; central times are GMT)

Consistently impressive at youth level, Fabián Coito’s men emerged victorious at the Sudamericano Sub-20, delighting their fans after the disappointment of finishing runners-up in 2015. They are a well-organised unit, having conceded the second-fewest number of goals in the tournament and are not short of players from all over the pitch capable of ending up on the scoresheet.

Top Talents

Nicolás De La Cruz (Attacking-midfielder, No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay)

Younger brother of full international Carlos Sánchez, who displayed admirable character, composure and leadership qualities in his country’s regional Under-20 triumph and was acclaimed as this site’s Player of the Tournament. A regular at club level, where he features on the scoresheet relatively often, he is not afraid to shoot – and, perhaps, score a swerving, spectacular golazo – from range. Along with this and his free-kick attempts, expect to also see him showcase his creativity via an eclectic array of forward balls and crosses, from both set-pieces as well as open play. A move abroad surely can’t be too far off the horizon.

Rodrigo Amaral (Attacking-midfielder/Forward, No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay)

Prodigious, potentially brilliant game-changer who often roams from deep, bustling his way forward to either play in team-mates with a deft touch or – like De La Cruz – score some long-range screamers. However, though he finished as the joint-top scorer with five goals in the title win earlier this year and was possibly the most naturally gifted player in the tournament, there are serious concerns regarding his weight. So much so that not only did he never once complete 90 minutes in qualifying but immediately after lifting the trophy, his powerful agent Daniel Fonseca engineered him away from his club side to train in isolation. Amaral has since said that he has no intention of returning to Nacional and so now, the man who has already played in one Under-20 World Cup – in 2015, he heartbreakingly missed the decisive shoot-out spot-kick against Brazil – finds himself very much in the shop window.

Rodrigo Bentancur (Midfielder, No. 20, Boca Juniors, transferring to Juventus in July)

A versatile, often commanding midfielder, who frequently seeks to dispossess opponents before initiating attacks with short, precise passes, but who can also occasionally make progress upfield to inflict damage. Having already played over 50 league games for Argentine giants Boca Juniors, which has led to a €9.5 million move to Juventus, all Uruguayans will be hoping that he can play a towering role, providing the essential organisation and composure. A roamer at the centre of the park, to his left is likely to be the nifty Facundo Waller (Midfielder, No. 15, Plaza Colonia), who is poised to make some more key, understated contributions going forward.

Federico Valverde (Midfielder, No. 16, Real Madrid Castilla)

Like all of his compatriots above, this 18-year-old regular in the Real Madrid B side can certainly be an asset shooting from distance. Furthermore, if need be, he can most definitely get on the scoresheet, having netted seven times for the Under-17s in 2015’s regional tournament. However, as he was not part of the squad that reigned supreme a few months ago, it will be curious to see where precisely the ex-Peñarol man fits into this attack-blessed team.

Nicolás Schiappacasse (Forward, No. 9, Atlético Madrid Under-19s)

Playing in a more conventional striker’s role, Schiappacasse scored three times in the CONMEBOL triumph, two of his goals being rather clinical strikes; he also drew many fouls, winning free-kicks in dangerous positions as well as penalties. Just 18, he could prove to be a crucial component of the Uruguayan attack, but may also face more competition this time around from the likes of Valverde, not to mention the man a mere day his senior, Joaquín Ardaiz (Forward, No. 7, Danubio).

For more information on all of the above players (except Federico Valverde), plus some other Uruguayan talents to watch out for, click here to see how they got on at the 2017 CONMEBOL Under-20 South American Youth Championship.


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Ecuador

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(Ecuador’s Group F fixtures via FIFA.com; central times are GMT)

Ultimately denied by Uruguay at the last hurdle, Javier Rodríguez’s charges nevertheless finished a highly commendable 2nd on home soil in February. Although La Mini Tri‘s defence could do with some work – 14 goals conceded in 9 Sudamericano Sub-20 games – their plethora of bustling, forceful attack-minded players should create many difficulties for upcoming opponents.

Top Talents

Bryan Cabezas (Attacking-midfielder/Forward, No. 10, Atalanta)

One of the four joint-top scorers earlier this year with five tournament goals, this direct left-sided attacker has the ability to be a rambunctious nuisance for defenders, regularly unsettling them when charging his way forward. Last year, he played in the Copa Libertadores final for inspiring over-achievers Independiente Del Valle, subsequently earning a move to Atalanta. Although he has thus far only featured once as a substitute in Serie A, he surely still has a spring in his step after making his senior Ecuador debut in February. Another set of eye-catching performances for the Under-20s can only aid his club cause.

Pervis Estupiñán (Left-back, No. 6, Granada, Spain)

Nominally a left-back, the irrepressible Estupiñán is as unforgettable as his name, regularly manfully bombing up his flank and looking to make things happen in the final third. Even if three of his goals at the Sudamericano Sub-20 were immaculately executed spot-kicks, his four-goal tally was nevertheless eyebrow-raising. A solid performer at previous youth international levels – including the 2015 Under-17 World Cup – his true calling may well prove to be further upfield. Having started his first two La Liga games for Granada in April, with their recent relegation, it is rumoured that his potential is set to be nurtured outside of Andalusia next season.

Joao Rojas (Midfielder, No. 17, Emelec)

Particularly in the first group stage of the qualifying tournament, this right-sided midfielder looked to be Ecuador’s most creative attacker, regularly putting in dangerous balls from open play and set-pieces as well as not being afraid to strike. Whether for technical reasons and/or due to the demanding schedule that necessitates rotation, he featured less in the latter stages. The 19-year-old will thus be seeking to regain favour as well as show local giants Emelec – who signed him after nearly two good seasons with S.D. Aucas – why they should field him more often.

Jordan Sierra (Midfielder, No. 15, Delfin)

Though he was fielded in a more central, deep-lying role, the tenacious Sierra ultimately came to overshadow Rojas in the CONMEBOL under-20 tournament. Keen to fire from range, as well as hold off and evade challenges he, like Cabezas, made his full international debut for Ecuador against Honduras in February. If rumours are to be believed, the suitors are lining up to nab him after his Korean adventure, with Manchester City, Ajax and some unnamed Liga MX sides amongst those leading the pack.

Jordy Caicedo (Forward, No. 19, Universidad Católica del Ecuador) (& Co.)

Otherwise, La Mini Tri are certainly not short of persistent, rampaging attackers capable of creating chances as well as confusion – that is, amongst spectators as much as opponents. Indeed, both of whom may struggle to keep track of who is who. Perhaps most likely to get on the scoresheet is Caicedo, who notched three goals at the Sudamericano Sub-20 tournament and also has a couple this season in the domestic league. Other players to watch out for include the following: Midfielder Wilter Ayoví (Midfielder, No. 8, Independiente Del Valle), who will hopefully receive more opportunities this time around and who strongly believes he and his compatriots shall lift the trophy; Herlín Lino (Forward, No. 9, Deportivo Cuenca), who scored twice in the CONMEBOL qualifiers and, remarkably, won three penalties; and 18-year-old Washington Corozo (Forward, No. 7, Independiente Del Valle), who was a regular threat back in January’s group stage, gaining both an assist and a goal – had he and his team-mates been a little sharper, he could well have had more of each.

For more information on all of the above players plus some other Ecuadorian talents to watch out for, click here to see how they got on at the 2017 CONMEBOL Under-20 South American Youth Championship.


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Venezuela

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(Venezuela’s Group B fixtures via FIFA.com; central times are GMT)

Rafael Dudamel, who is also La Vinotino‘s senior national coach, guided his men through an exceptional showing earlier this year, finishing third and travelling to their first Under-20 World Cup since 2009. Meticulously organised, with the best defence in qualifying – seven goals conceded in the nine tournament games – much hope has been placed in this hard-working crop, four of whom have already received full caps in World Cup Qualifying matches.

Top Talents

Yeferson Soteldo (Attacking-midfielder/Forward, No. 10, Huachipato, Chile)

Despite being just 5 feet 3 inches tall, undoubtedly the most conspicuous Venezuelan will be this diminutive left-sided dribbler. While there are concerns that he can be a bit of a tunnel-visioned ball-hogger, of La Vinotinto‘s nine tournament goals earlier this year, he scored three and had a key role in at least another three (possibly five, if you ask his agent). Thus, much rests on this playmaker’s slight shoulders. Having already played for the senior side and managed to rack up over 100 appearances at club level, this 19-year-old possesses considerable experience within his own continent. Against the likes of Germany, however, will his petite frame hinder or aid his quest for global recognition?

Yangel Herrera (Defensive-midfielder, No. 8, New York City FC, on loan from Manchester City)

With organisation paramount to Venezuela’s prosperity, their versatile captain will seek to continue to play a major role, helping to communicate effectively with those around him and snuffing out danger. Vigilant as well as proactive, he frequently kick-starts attacks as well as gets forward himself, hitting the back of the net twice in his seven qualifying games. Also already a full international, he has impressed in his first few months in the MLS, scoring once and dislodging Andrea Pirlo from the New York City FC line-up. A regular place alongside senior captain Tomás Rincón surely beckons.

Wuilker Fariñez (Goalkeeper, No. 1, Caracas FC)

Universally lauded as the best shot-stopper in CONMEBOL qualifying, this sprightly 5-feet-9-inch ex-striker possesses great reflexes as well as a fearlessness when confronting danger. The Caracas FC No. 1 also has a knack for saving penalties, most notably denying Alexis Sánchez. Indeed, just a month after he turned 19, owing to his impressive performances for the Under-20s, Dudamel made him first choice for both senior qualifiers in March. As with Soteldo, it is only natural to wonder if his height shall limit his potential, but many onlookers will be hoping that this highly likeable chap can defy some more odds in the upcoming days.

Adalberto Peñaranda (Attacking-midfielder, No. 7, Málaga, on loan from Watford)

The prodigious Peñaranda did not feature at this year’s Sudamericano Sub-20, instead playing in the 2015 edition. Though that particular side had a forgettable campaign, the then-Deportivo La Guaira man was later ensnared by the Pozzo Triangle and, by the end of the year, was scoring goals, making headlines and breaking records with La Liga outfit, Granada. However, despite the hype that followed, his trajectory has stalled after negligible loan spells at both Udinese and, currently, Málaga. Still, all hope is far from lost: this restless, pacy dribbler returned to the senior fray in March and doesn’t turn 20 until the end of May. How he and Soteldo operate within the same line-up will be of great interest to many aficionados.

Williams Velásquez (Centre-back, No. 2, Estudiantes de Caracas, soon-to-be Udinese, on loan from Watford) (& Co.)

Though goalkeeper Fariñez deserves enormous credit for conceding the fewest goals in qualifying, he was also greatly assisted in achieving his four clean sheets by an exceptionally well-drilled defence. Indeed, arguably the most prominent of the outfield rearguard was centre-back Velásquez, who reportedly reached an agreement in February to later be initiated into the Pozzo Experience, with his destination at this moment in time said to be Udinese, on loan from Watford. As he is also likely to be in South Korea, in qualifying he was admirably partnered by Josua Mejías (Centre-back, No. 17, Carabobo FC), who got on the scoresheet in the breathtaking 3-0 win over eventual champions Uruguay. Lastly, on the right-flank will be Ronald Hernández (Right-back, No. 20, Zamora FC), who thwarted virtually all of the attacks on his side and was picked out by many as one of the best right-backs of the competition. As always with Venezuela, discipline is likely to be issue, but if those at the back, plus the likes of Herrera can maintain their cool as well as their collective shape, a history-making performance is eminently possible.

For more information on all of the above players (except Adalberto Peñaranda), plus some other Venezuelan talents to watch out for, click here to see how they got on at the 2017 CONMEBOL Under-20 South American Youth Championship.


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Argentina

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(Argentina’s Group A fixtures via FIFA.com; central times are GMT)

In early February, Claudio Úbeda’s men somehow scraped through in the fourth qualifying berth at the expense of the similarly underwhelming Brazil. As usual, Los Pibes are not short of attackers worth keeping an eye on, though their defence and collective character may be concerns. Being record six-time champions, they will want to improve on last time around, when they won 2015’s Sudamericano Sub-20 tournament, yet were embarrassingly knocked out of the first round of that same year’s World Cup.

Top Talents

Lautaro Martínez (Striker, No. 9, Racing Club)

Quite simply, Argentina would not be in South Korea without this frontman of awe-inspiring stamina and drive. Joint-top scorer in qualification, virtually all of his five goals were astoundingly vital, with three of them earning crucial points at the death of a trio of different games and his other two ensuring victory in the important final match. A clinical finisher with the ball at his feet as well as in the air, he is also adept at using his refined technique to score a pearler as well as set up a team-mate with a well-weighted pass. Since returning to Racing in February, he has scored six goals in eight league games; small wonder then, that the side most strongly linked to signing him are Real Madrid. In the week leading up to his Korean bow, he suffered an injury blow though, fortunately for all except his opponents, now reportedly has the all-clear to play.

Tomás Conechny (Attacking-midfielder, No. 10, San Lorenzo)

A creative attacker who has been on the radar of top scouts since at least 2015 when he banged in five goals in seven Sudamericano Sub-17 games, he emerged in spells at 2017’s Under-20 tournament as an indispensible playmaker. Indeed, he scored a fine golazo, but more notably, played a role in four other goals, two of which were put on a plate for Martínez late on, with another also gaining a point at the death. Having started a mere four matches in qualifying (with four other appearances coming as a substitute) as well as only ever emerging from the bench for his club side, it will be curious to see how much he is used in the upcoming days. He must at least derive some optimism from being upgraded from the No. 20 to the hallowed No. 10 shirt.

Brian Mansilla (Attacking-midfielder, No. 11, Racing Club)

Another potentially key individual who can play either off or behind the front-line is the left-footed Mansilla. In the qualifying tournament, he was a regular threat pacing up the inside-channels past opponents, scoring two goals and gaining an assist from his nine consecutive starts. One team evidently impressed was Ajax, yet their considerable bid was rebuffed by Racing, who clearly believe that they have something very special indeed on their hands.

Marcelo Torres (Striker, No. 7, Boca Juniors)

Unlike Martínez, Torres went into the qualifying tournament with little hype yet, particularly in the opening group stage, looked to be his nation’s most significant prospect. Ultimately, his more widely-touted striker-partner may have overshadowed him in the heroics department, but Torres nevertheless also finished joint-top scorer with five goals (from just seven appearances), two of which were exquisite finishes. Serie A sides are reportedly interested though, perhaps to the surprise of those outside of La Bombonera’s orbit, he is still yet to play a senior game for Boca Juniors. Thus, the World Cup could provide a perfect platform to accelerate his club career progression, whether at home or abroad. That said, we are yet to see precisely where a certain Ezequiel Ponce (Forward, No. 18, Granada, on loan from Roma) shall fit in. Nominally a striker who was prolific at youth level with Newell’s Old Boys, the attacker’s professional record has thus far been somewhat less remarkable. Nevertheless, though he wasn’t part of the qualifying squad, he scored in a recent warm-up game, having been set up by none other than Torres. Perhaps they need not draw pistols at dawn, after all.

Santiago Ascacibar (Defensive-midfielder, No. 5, Estudiantes de La Plata)

Already a regular at club level and tracked by some of Europe’s top clubs, much of Los Pibes‘ success depends upon the midfield harrying and leadership skills of their captain. However, though in qualification he did display some of his passing abilities when playing a key role in two goals, defensively he and his colleagues were porous. Indeed, he was at the heart of the system that leaked three goals in three separate matches, leading him to claim that their preparation had been inadequate. Thus, personal pride and patriotism surely demands that he takes charge of ensuring that there will be no recurrence of either Ecuador 2017 or, indeed, New Zealand 2015.

For more information on all of the above players (except Ezequiel Ponce), plus some other Argentine talents to watch out for (excluding Ezequiel Barco and Nahuel Molina), click here to see how they got on at the 2017 CONMEBOL Under-20 South American Youth Championship.


To keep track of how all the South American talents get on at South Korea 2017, please follow yours truly on the Twitter account below and/or return to this website for match-by-match updates.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Ecuador – Top Talents at the 2017 Under-20 South American Youth Championship

The 2017 Under-20 South American Youth Championship took place in Ecuador from 18 January until 11 February. @DarrenSpherical watched all 35 games, writing reports for each encounter that detailed all the significant moments by the most talented players that were spotted. This article focuses on the most notable starlets found in the ranks of Under-20 World Cup qualifiers Ecuador, who ultimately finished 2nd in the final group stage (also known as the Hexagonal), having initially progressed after topping Group A. Before browsing below, it may be advisable to have a look at the final standings, results and goalscorers here and/or read the main reference guide published on this website, which features details on dozens of players, with every one of the ten participating nations represented. 

(All photographs are credited to GettyImages)

 

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Tournament Summary 

The hosts, who were at their most threatening when playing a fast-paced, physical brand of football, were often the most exciting team to watch, a view best supported by their 4-3 victory against Colombia in the first group stage. They ended as the joint-highest scorers and pulled off some emphatic victories in the Hexagonal, including 3-0 wins against both Argentina and Colombia, before ultimately surrendering their outside title challenge against Uruguay in the final match.

To view highlights as well as read more about how Ecuador got on and who stood out in each game, click here

Top Two Talents

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Bryan Cabezas (Attacking-midfielder/Forward, No. 10, Atalanta, Italy)

With five goals from his nine starts, left-sided attacker Bryan Cabezas finished as one of the four joint top-scorers, impressively netting four times in the Hexagonal phase. Indeed, after having to come off with a possible concussion in the opener against Brazil, he returned to net a penalty in the 4-3 win over Colombia and converted another spot-kick as a consolation in the heavy Hexagonal loss to Venezuela. It was in the subsequent two games that he really made his mark as he scored three goals (once against Argentina and twice against Colombia  – both 3-0 spankings), all of which were well-placed finishes from a position inside the area on the left. Otherwise, he set up another goal against Argentina with a fine low ball across the area which found Jordy Caicedo and, generally, was a rambunctious nuisance for defenders, unsettling them when bustling his way forward.

Though his team-mates also deserve much credit for seeking Cabezas out, with such good finishing, his direct, unsubtle approach appears to work well for him and at club level, he’s already been mixing it with the big boys at an impressively high standard. Indeed, back in July, he played in the Copa Libertadores final for Ecuadorian Cinderella story Independiente Del Valle; the following month, he agreed a deal with Serie A’s Atalanta, where he has thus far sat on the bench nearly a dozen times this season. Though they may be hesitant to risk jeopardising their outstanding campaign, perhaps when their starlet returns – after first joining up with the senior squad for a friendly with Honduras – some on-field minutes are in order.

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Pervis Estupiñán (Left-back, No. 6, Granada, Spain)

Though nominally a left-back, the man who may well come to be known as ‘Pervy Stupidname’ by morons everywhere (or perhaps just this writer) may well be better suited a little further upfield. Indeed, even though three were perfectly executed spot-kicks, it was nevertheless impressive of him to bag four goals and he was regularly a threat bombing up his flank, manfully striding past opponents. Not missing a single minute of the competition, he played a vital role for the hosts, beginning the comeback in the 4-3 win over Colombia with a low strike and putting away his three penalties in consecutive Hexagonal matches against Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina. As well as scoring, with well-weighted balls up the left he also played it forward for Herlin Lino to win the first penalty against Brazil and, after opening up some space, set up Cabezas’ second goal in the 3-0 Hexagonal win against Colombia.

Defensively, he is perhaps more of a mixed bag. Indeed, Ecuador’s record of 14 goals conceded in nine games was nothing to brag about and there were occasions when Estupiñán was clearly the culprit for defensive lapses – perhaps most notably twice from crosses against Chile, though only one resulted in a goal. However, he also thwarted many attackers with his fearsome tenacity and physicality on the left, as well cleared the ball off the line at least twice (both times in the Hexagonal clash with Brazil).

Perhaps there was little call for him to be pushed forward to the left of midfield as that position was occupied by Cabezas, but, in time, things may pan out differently at Granada, for whose B team he has been playing for since the beginning of the season. Before this move, he had been playing in the L.D.U. Quito first-team consistently since he was 17 years old. Furthermore, given that two years ago he also played (and scored) in both the Under-17 Sudamericano tournament as well as the World Cup – where Ecuador reached the quarter-final – and his uncle, Jorge Guagua, has over 60 caps for La Tri, he appears to be a man of solid pedigree. As Granada currently need all the help they can get in La Liga, they could surely do much worse than hand a first-team start to Estupiñán. Who knows, they may experience similarly exhilarating results to what occurred when their buy from 2015’s tournament, Venezuela’s Adalberto Peñaranda, was given a try later that year.

ecuadorflag More Ecuadorian Talents

Particularly in the first group stage, Joao Rojas (No. 17, Emelec) looked to be Ecuador’s most creative midfielder, regularly putting in dangerous balls from open play as well as set-pieces and also not being afraid to strike. He was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet, particularly against Chile when he had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside. Also, though he had an important role in the build-up of at least four goals, for only one of these could he be credited with an assist: a slide across the area for Washington Corozo’s opener against Paraguay. However, though he appeared to be a frequent source of trouble for opponents, following the 4-2 hiding by Venezuela in the Hexagonal, he was replaced early and left out of the starting line-ups for the final three games. Hopefully, having already regularly played for nearly two seasons with domestic side S.D. Aucas, he will be able to prove himself as a consistent threat at his new club, giants Emelec.


Rojas was one of several talented supporting Ecuador midfielders who frequently helped to create chances and confusion, with opposition defenders often struggling to contend with several bustling threats at once. One of the most significant of these was Ajax-target Jordan Sierra (No. 15, Delfin), who appeared to play in a more central, deep-lying role to Rojas and gradually came to overshadow him. Indeed, in his first two outings he was notable for some testing long-range efforts but then early on in the third game against Chile he displayed great tenacity and desire to hold off and evade the challenges of two defenders before managing to sneak in a goal that went in off the far post. Otherwise, with his dinked forward ball to Rojas, he played a key role in the opener in the subsequent game against Paraguay and later, in the Hexagonal, set up Cabezas’ first goal against Colombia. As with Cabezas and Félix Torres (No. 23, Barcelona de Guayaquil) – who played in five games but never really caught this observer’s eye – Sierra has been called up for the senior squad’s friendly with Honduras on 22 February.


To a lesser extent as he was not afforded as many chances – three starts, plus four substitute appearances – fellow midfielder Wilter Ayoví (No. 8, Independiente Del Valle) could also be a handful. Indeed, he displayed a notable capacity for driving forward, bustling and making things happens. His most notable contribution was the last-gasp cross that was nodded in by Jordy Caicedo to claim an enthralling 4-3 victory over Colombia in the opening stage. Thirty seconds prior he had a gilt-edged opportunity to win the game himself and before this had also managed to get in a couple other attempts, as he did in two other matches he featured in.


Working in close tandem with these attacking-midfielders were a range of forwards, who also impressed. Indeed, along with Cabezas, there was three-goal Jordy Caicedo (No. 19, Universidad Católica del Ecuador), who played in all nine games, starting four. As noted, he dramatically began his tally by heading in Ayoví’s cross for the late 4-3 win against Colombia, with his other two coming in the pair of 3-0 wins in the Hexagonal, firstly a tap-in against Argentina and then a clinical strike against Colombia.


With perhaps more versatility in his game, Herlin Lino (No. 9, currently unattached, though ex-Barcelona de Guayaquil; El Nacional interested) made a nuisance of himself and managed to bag two goals. The first of these was a sensational 25-yard volley against Paraguay, certainly one of the goals of the tournament, whereas the second was the last of the competition, a deft touch following a long ball from right-back Kevin Minda (No. 4, L.D.U. Quito) that halved Uruguay’s lead. He was also notable for having a curious knack of forcing opponents into fouls and winning penalties; he was fouled for the one in the 4-3 win over Colombia and, remarkably, for both in the 2-2 Hexagonal draw against Brazil, with many fans feeling he was also narrowly denied another one late on.


Last but by no means least, though with one goal he was not as prolific as he was at U-17 level (goals in 8 games at 2015’s Sudamericano tournament, then 2 in 5 encounters later that year at the World Cup), Washington Corozo (No. 7, Independiente Del Valle) made his presence known. With his fast pace, he impressed running at opponents and though he only got one assist (a short pass to Estupiñán in the opening stage win against Colombia), had some of his team-mates been a little sharper, he could have had at least a few more. His solitary goal came against Paraguay; shortly beforehand he should’ve netted with a header in space which instead hit the post, but he made no mistake for the 20th-minute opener when Rojas slid the ball to him and, unmarked, he turned to convert. Like Rojas, he either fell out of favour and/or succumbed to fatigue as, despite also starting the first six games, he was a substitute for the last three.


If you would like to read about the best talents from the other nations, then click on the following links: Uruguay, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia The Best of the Early Departees (Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia & Peru). All of this information is also contained in this mammoth Reference Guide

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Ecuador 1-2 Uruguay (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 5, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 11 February 2017)

The final game which took place on the last Hexagonal Matchday of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw hosts Ecuador face Uruguay in a battle for the title. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

hexagonalendddd

(Source: Wikipedia)

Ecuador 1-2 Uruguay

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 11 February 2017 (YouTube)

In this title-deciding encounter, Uruguay were out the traps early and with relative comfort ultimately went on to clinch the championship by an impressive five points. They were gifted the lead after a mere five minutes when Ecuador defender Luis Segovia suicidally passed the ball inside his own area to Joaquín Ardaiz who gratefully tucked it away. Twenty minutes later Ardaiz virtually sealed the competition for Uruguay when he received a long ball and clinically struck it home. Now requiring three goals, though Ecuador did get forward they never really looked like realistically pulling off the comeback; they did nevertheless halve the deficit in the 66th minute when Herlin Lino managed to knock a forward ball past the goalkeeper. Ultimately however, it was Uruguay’s day and tournament; though it was a topsy-turvy 25 days and even Uruguay gave observers reasons to doubt them, they came through and can deservedly be called the best Under-20 nation in South America.

Talent Spotting

ecuadorflag Ecuador

They were outsiders to win the title and any game plan they had went out the window as soon as Luis Segovia (No. 21, El Nacional) gifted Uruguay their opening goal within five minutes. Going two behind after 26 minutes all but ensured the destination of the trophy though, to their minor credit, Ecuador did at least try to threaten the opposition defence throughout the game.

Indeed, unsurprisingly top-scorer Bryan Cabezas (No. 10, Atalanta, Italy) could be a threat, particularly early on. In the 13th minute he managed to gain some space and get a shot away from the edge of the area, which the Uruguayan goalkeeper uncomfortably spilt. Ecuador have several quality attack-minded players and so some have been afforded more opportunities than others in this tournament but here Wilter Ayoví (No. 8, Independiente Del Valle) caught the eye, coming close to scoring twice. Indeed, in the 19th minute he swung in a free-kick with his right boot from the left near the byline which had to be blocked out at the near post. Then, more notably three minutes later, he did well to capitalise on an error then twist and turn his way past two players before firing a shot from inside the area that was deflected just over for a corner. Into the second half, Ecuador did manage to provide a glimmer of hope for their fans when in the 66th minute a long ball from right-back Kevin Minda (No. 4, L.D.U. Quito) was deftly touched by Herlin Lino (No. 9, Barcelona SC, Ecuador) through the legs of the onrushing goalkeeper to make it 2-1. However, despite this, they struggled to put Uruguay under much more pressure, with an 82nd-minute free-kick from substitute Joao Rojas (No. 17, Emelec) that went hopelessly over being the closest they came to another goal.

Alas, the scoreline remained the same and Uruguay were crowned champions. Nevertheless, Ecuadorians can come away with much pride that they not only hosted an often exciting tournament but that their team was often the most entertaining side on show, managing to finish a very credible second and will be going to South Korea in May.

uruguayflag Uruguay

Though Ecuador never entirely gave up, Uruguay had effectively killed off the game within the opening half-hour. Indeed, they showed strength in depth by dropping at least a couple of their most impressive players and it was one of the stand-ins who was to score both of their goals. Indeed, Joaquín Ardaiz (No. 7, Danubio) took advantage of a hopeless defensive error in the fifth minute, before shielding the ball from another defender and then sliding home from inside the area. His second came in the 26th minute when Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay), arguably the most consistent top performer in the tournament, dinked a ball over a defender which Ardaiz confidently finished off.

Otherwise, Uruguay had a couple of other minor chances in the first half but it was after Ecuador pulled a goal back in the second period that they really further tested the opposition goalkeeper. Indeed, in the 69th minute, perhaps the most naturally talented player in the competition, Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional, Uruguay), came off the bench and two minutes later had an opportunity to win the golden boot outright. Alas, though he curled this centrally placed free-kick well with his left peg, it ultimately went slightly wide; thus, after the game he had to share the top-scorer’s trophy with three other players who also scored five goals: Ecuador’s Bryan Cabezas and Argentina’s Marcelo Torres and Lautaro Martínez. Five minutes after Amaral’s free-kick, another set-piece was well-struck from the middle of the park; this time it was De La Cruz over the ball and he did well to curl a right-footed effort which had to be parried out.

Nevertheless, though they didn’t build on their early lead, they didn’t really need to, with the likes of Agustín Rogel (No. 18, Nacional) at the back instead largely effectively frustrating and hassling opponents off the ball.

When the final whistle blew, the Uruguayan joy was palpable as they won their first South American Under-20 tournament since 1981 (their eighth overall) and kept up a very impressive recent youth record. For many fans, this will have gone some way to making up for the narrow defeat suffered in the decisive final game by a similarly outstanding side to Argentina on home soil two years ago in front of over 65,000 people. Now, this generation of players from this small over-achieving nation shall go with Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina to the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea in May with a spring in their collective step, no doubt believing that they can yet again upset the odds – and this time on a much grander scale.

The two other games played on the fifth and final Hexagonal Matchday were Argentina vs Venezuela and Colombia vs Brazil – talent-spotting articles have already been published for these two matches.  

Otherwise, to keep track with the careers of these and many other talented South Americans, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Ecuador 2-4 Venezuela (Hexagonal Group Stage, Matchday 2, 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20, 2 February 2017)

The third game which took place on Hexagonal Matchday 2 of the 2017 U-20 South American Youth Championship saw hosts Ecuador play Venezuela. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting… 

groupstage020217

(Source: Wikipedia)

Ecuador 2-4 Venezuela

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Hexagonal Group Stage, 2 February 2017 (YouTube)

Gaining their first victory of the tournament, Venezuela burst through the floodgates and humbled hosts Ecuador in a very convincing display. In a rather quiet first half, Yangel Herrera opened the scoring in the 40th minute with a fine, if deflected, effort. Half time produced a surprise all-consuming patch of fog, which threatened to halt the game, but thankfully it did not come to that, even if the hosts were soon hoping that the match would be called off. Indeed, within 19 minutes of the restart, they were 4-0 down as, firstly, Yeferson Soteldo converted a penalty in the 53rd minute, then three minutes later Ronaldo Chacón collected Soteldo’s deflected shot and blasted home for the third; lastly, in the 64th minute, Sergio Córdova received Soteldo’s pass and comfortably struck home for the fourth. Late on, Ecuador, who barely managed a shot from open play in the entire game, were able to paper over the scoreline somewhat, with two penalties converted by, first,  Pervis Estupiñán in the 88th minute and then, seven minutes into stoppage-time, Bryan Cabezas. Despite this, the match was Venezuela’s and they can now consider World Cup qualification a serious possibility.

Talent Spotting

ecuadorflag Ecuador

The hosts got forward in the first half but were always thwarted by the opposition defence, who did not allow them to play with their characteristic verve and bustle; consequently, they had no attacking moments worth recollecting. The second half was little better, as they only managed to cause minor inroads when Venezuela were already thumping them 4-0; for example, in the 76th minute when substitute Wilter Ayoví (No. 8, Independiente Del Valle) forced a low parry from his 25-yard right-footed blast. Ecuador may have underestimated their opposition or simply been worn down by the competition as they were barely in this game; they can count themselves very fortunate that they were gifted two soft penalties – scored by Pervis Estupiñán (No. 6, Granada, Spain) and Bryan Cabezas (No. 10, Atalanta, Italy) – to at least improve their goal difference.

venezuelaflag Venezuela

Though Yeferson Soteldo (No. 10, Huachipato, Chile) may have had some involvement with all four goals, it was nevertheless a fine team performance from Venezuela, as they finally burst out of their shell to not only win, but win handsomely. Before they opened the scoring, the first half had been a rather quiet affair as the Venezuelan defence had done a fine job frustrating and neutering the Ecuadorian attack. Venezuela did not get forward a great deal themselves, however, with their best attempt perhaps coming from a 22nd-minute corner curled in by Soteldo which Ronaldo Chacón (No. 11, Caracas FC) headed at the near post into the side-netting.

Nevertheless, in the 40th minute, they well and truly got the ball rolling. Just outside of the right corner of the area, Yangel Herrera (No. 8, Manchester City) received a short pass from Soteldo and then curled a sublime effort over the goalkeeper to give Venezuela the lead – a dozen replays later and it’s still unclear how many of his compatriots watching on are willing to admit that it took a hefty deflection. Into the foggy second half, Ronaldo Peña (No. 9, Las Palmas, Spain) won a penalty eight minutes after the restart and Soteldo stepped up, perhaps doing the sensible thing in the conditions, by simply striking it down the middle to make it 2-0. Barely three minutes later in the 56th minute, Soteldo’s shot was deflected into the path of Chacón, who struck home a fine left-footed effort for his first goal of the tournament. Eight minutes later, Soteldo did some nice work on the left of the area before sliding it over to Sergio Córdova (No. 23, Caracas FC) who also scored his first goal of the tournament with a low, left-footed shot that seemed to wrongfoot the goalkeeper.

Other than the goals, Venezuela didn’t have a great deal of other chances but then, they didn’t need them. In the 19 opening minutes of the second half they blitzed the hosts on their own soil, leading the Venezuelans in attendance to Olé every pass, with their team appearing to have very much arrived as credible contenders at the tournament. In stoppage-time, the fans also began singing their country’s national anthem, ‘Gloria Al Bravo Pueblo’.

However, it was nevertheless disappointing that they managed to give away two unnecessary penalties. The second one was a careless handball from a corner but the first was due to goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez (No. 1, Caracas FC) somewhat recklessly colliding with an opponent over a long ball. It’s the second game in a row that the much-acclaimed youngster has given away a penalty and he has now also conceded all three that he has faced in these two Hexagonal games. Given that his tournament began with a notable spot-kick save against Uruguay, one can not help but feel that he is gradually losing some of his lustre.

That said, though it must have been annoying for he and his compatriots to have their goal difference eaten into late on, they have still only conceded four goals in six games – the joint-best in the competition, with Uruguay. Furthermore, things can’t be too bad sitting second in the Hexagonal table with four points from a possible six – expectations, naturally, will have increased.

The two other games played on Hexagonal Matchday 2 were Colombia vs Argentina and Uruguay vs Brazil – talent-spotting articles for both matches have already been published.

Otherwise, Matchday 3 of the Hexagonal will be on 5 February 2017 and the games shall be Brazil vs Venezuela, Uruguay vs Colombia and Ecuador vs Argentina – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com. 

To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Day 3 – 2017 Sudamericano Sub-20 (Brazil 0-0 Chile & Ecuador 4-3 Colombia)

On the third day of the 2017 edition of the prestigious U-20 South American Youth Championship, attention turned back to Group A, with Brazil taking on Chile and hosts Ecuador facing Colombia. Below are video highlights, brief summaries of each game and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-spotting…

groupa20117

(Source: Wikipedia)

Brazil 0-0 Chile

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group A, 20 January 2017 (YouTube)

An ill-tempered and ugly game with six yellow cards and two reds (including one for a substitute), this was also a match of poor quality, though Chile deserve some praise for holding out for over 60 minutes with ten men. Brazil somewhat fortuitously hit the post towards the end of a very lacklustre first half, yet though they saw more of the ball, ultimately they did not do enough to convince that they deserved a win. La Rojita, whilst largely constrained, created a few chances; it will be interesting to see what they are capable of if they can improve their discipline, though they do find themselves in a rather competitive group.

Talent Spotting

brazilflag Brazil

The performance of David Neres (No. 11, São Paulo) was by no means exceptional but he nevertheless deserves highlighting for exhibiting one particular moment of intent – a quality that was often lacking in his side. In the 62nd minute, seemingly tired of the lethargy of those around him, he rampaged into the area from the right, evading at least two challenges before striking hard with his left boot, forcing a parry. The rebound by his team-mate was also stopped and then knocked off the line, but nevertheless, this was the sort of wake-up call an underperforming side needs; perhaps he can provide the catalyst in future games.

Felipe Vizeu (No. 9, Flamengo) was the forward who unsuccessfully attempted on the stretch to hook in the rebound to Neres’ shot. Earlier on at the end of the first half, he had also instinctively diverted the long-range strike of Caio Henrique (No. 7, Atlético Madrid) onto the post. Otherwise, as with his fellow attacking team-mates such as Lucas Paqueta (No. 10, Flamengo), Richarlison (No. 18, Fluminense) and Douglas Luiz (No. 8, Vasco da Gama), he was often lurking around the area but struggling to cause much discomfort. Lucas Paqueta’s most memorable contribution was a low shot from outside the area which drew a good save, Richarlison’s was a nifty turn before a weak cross, whereas Luiz, despite looking assured on the ball, skied over the bar more than once. All three men were withdrawn well before the final whistle.

A brief word for goalkeeper Caíque (No. 23, Vitória). Though he was mocked for a first-half air-kick (which was mostly likely the fault of the bobbly pitch), he otherwise looked alert, more than once anticipating trouble from long balls early on and rushing out his area to intercept. Though he will face sterner tests in the upcoming days, it can not pass completely without comment that he has so far kept two clean sheets.

chileflag Chile

Playing with ten men for an hour, Chile did not have too many opportunities to show what they can do and so it is more their rearguard that is deserving of praise. Yours truly has to confess that he did not notice one particular defender being conspicuously more integral than any of the others, but two South American football observers singled out certain individuals. Indeed, Victor Grao praised Canada-born left-back Cristián Gutiérrez (No. 4, Colo Colo), while Tom Webber was taken by centre-back Francisco Sierralta (No. 13, Palestino, on loan from Granada, Spain). Although Brazil did not make the most of their one-man advantage and shots did not rain down upon the Chilean goal, goalkeeper Gonzalo Collao (No. 1, Universidad de Chile) nevertheless also certainly played his part in keeping a clean sheet. Indeed, his most impressive moment came in the 62nd minute when he first saved Neres’ strike and then stretched to get a glove on Vizeu’s rebound; the ball subsequently went up in the air and then dipped goalwards but Sierralta was on hand to clear.

From an attacking perspective, though Chile were hindered by the man-disadvantage, they did show a few glimpses of what they can do in the final third. Indeed, the man who received the red card, Jeisson Vargas (No. 10, Estudiantes de La Plata, Argentina, on loan from Bologna, Italy), had actually looked like one of their leading threats, particularly in the fifth minute when he struck a well-hit free-kick from a difficult position on the left that Caíque had to tip over. Ignacio Jara (No. 15, Cobreloa) was another one who had looked lively yet left the field early, in his case substituted off at half time. He was responsible for a 29th-minute curling cross from the right with his left boot that narrowly missed the heads of those who leapt for it and ultimately had to be clawed out for a corner by Caíque, lest it creep past him into the goal. Three minutes later, he created a better opportunity when his dinked ball into the area was headed weakly by a defender, falling kindly to Gabriel Suazo (No. 8, Colo Colo); he instinctively hooked an attempt, though it rose a couple of yards over the bar.

In the second half, forward forays were rare but two of slight interest did occur, with Richard Paredes (No. 9, Palestino) involved in both. The first, after 70 minutes, saw him burst from the halfway line into the left side of the area; it seemed as if Lucas Paqueta may have brought him down but the Chilean was immediately back on his feet and turned with half a sight of goal to hit a rasping, if rather wild, shot which ultimately went well wide of the target. The second chance occurred just three minutes later when he met a long, diagonal ball into the area, though his header was rather tame and caught easily by Caíque.

Overall the match was far from a classic and one wonders what kind of attacking threat Chile will pose with 11 men (including Vargas when he returns from suspension). They did show glimpses of potential and if they take a page out of the book of Carlos Lobos (No. 21, Universidad Católica) – whose 50th-minute strike from the halfway line only went a few yards over the bar – they could turn out to be well worth tuning in for.

 Ecuador 4-3 Colombia

CONMEBOL U-20 South American Youth Championship 2017, Group A, 20 January 2017 (YouTube)

The locals who came early to the Estadio Olímpico de Riobamba were rewarded for their perseverance through the preceding drab affair with this goal-glut in which their compatriots dramatically gained their first win. The match was a very fluid, end-to-end encounter, containing enough action for at least four matches, so let’s stick with the goals for now:

Colombia took the lead after 6 minutes when Damir Ceter spectacularly struck home from just outside the area. Subsequently, the hosts had their chances but it was Jorge Obregón who got the second goal of the game, slotting into an open goal after goalkeeper José Cevallos had denied Ceter. However, shortly afterwards, the comeback began when, in the 41st minute, Pervis Estupiñán was on hand in the area to strike and thus halve the deficit. Just seven minutes after the restart, Ecuador were on level terms after a ball that looped up in the air following a corner came down to be volleyed in with controlled aplomb by Joel Quintero. Four minutes later, the hosts then temporarily achieved the scoreline reversal by going ahead via a Bryan Cabezas spot-kick, following a completely unnecessary foul by goalkeeper Manuel Arias. However, Colombia did not entirely succumb to the forces of fatalism as, in the 74th minute, they were level again when, at the second attempt, substitute Ever Valencia tapped in a wicked low cross at the back post. One would have thought that the two teams would settle for three goals apiece but in the closing minutes Ecuador, buoyed by their substitutes, ramped up their efforts for a winner. They got their reward in the 92nd minute when two of their fresher players combined to nab a memorable victory: Wilter Ayoví crossed in from the inside-right for Jordy Caicedo to head in off the post. Cue bedlam in Riobamba.

Talent Spotting

ecuadorflag Ecuador

Four goals scored but all by different players and not one individual could say they played a strong role in more than one of them. Thus, though it feels that there were many candidates for Man of the Match, not one had a clear claim.

Nevertheless, plenty impressed and one who particularly caught the eye – and not just for his exceptional name – was Pervis Estupiñán (No. 6, Granada, Spain). Nominally a left-back, given his strength and skill on the ball, an advanced position further up the pitch – where he was often found in this match – may prove to be his true calling. Indeed, with his roams, he drew some free-kicks, one of which he took himself early on; this was a good effort, dipping and swerving not too far wide of the past. Deserves credit for starting the fightback in the 41st minute with a strong left-footed strike that was too much for goalkeper Arias. He’s another player at this tournament with international pedigree in the family – his uncle, Jorge Guagua, has over 60 caps for La Tri.

Although he was only on the pitch for about 25 minutes, Wilter Ayoví (No. 8, Independiente Del Valle) played a significant role in leading the charge for the fourth goal. Indeed, he had chances to score, such as in the 77th minute when he struck across goal and came within a whisker of the far post – at least two other shots were either parried out or went narrowly wide.  However, it seemed as if he was going to leave the match a very frustrated – and perhaps slightly haunted – man as, in stoppage-time, he side-footed a cut-back wide of a largely unguarded net. Perhaps the ball came to him too quickly but he nevertheless made up for this barely 30 seconds later when he crossed in for the winning goal.

From the off, his club team-mate Washington Corozo (No. 7, Independiente Del Valle) was also never too far away from the final third. His most significant contribution was the short pass for Estupiñán’s goal, but he could have had another assist had Ayoví converted his cross-goal effort. He was involved in many moves and had a shot on target in the last ten minutes; his best chance was way back in the 7th minute when he latched onto a bouncing forward pass, hooked it over the goalkeeper but, unfortunately for him, also over the bar.

The player who played this ball upfield into Corozo’s stride was Jordan Sierra (No. 15, Delfin), a man who was given a start after coming on as a substitute in Ecuador’s first game. As with that match against Brazil, here he also tried his luck from range, most notably in the 45th minute when, from over 40 yards out, his dipping strike ended up just a yard or two over the bar. Other teams take heed: do not give this man a wide berth.

Otherwise, some quick praise for the following: Joao Rojas (No. 17, Emelec) for again putting in some dangerous set-pieces, most notably the one that caused the confusion which led to the second Ecuador goal, volleyed in with admirable composure by centre-back Joel Quintero (No. 3, Emelec). Bryan Cabezas (No. 10, Atalanta, Italy), for keeping his cool to slot home the penalty for 3-2, as well as continuing from the first match his tendency to be a frequent nuisance to defenders and being able to get into good positions. Herlin Lino (No. 9, Barcelona SC, Ecuador) for robbing a defender and then drawing the – admittedly stupid – foul from goalkeeper Arias to win the penalty, as well as for putting in a fine low cross for Cabezas early on. Lastly, credit to Jordy Caicedo (No. 19, Universidad Católica, Ecuador) for showing great mental character and belief; having been dropped after the first game, he came on as a substitute in the 87th minute and 5 minutes later he got onto the end of Ayoví’s cross to head home for a memorable win.

colombia Colombia

Though their defence and their – possibly ill, if not injured, goalkeeper – did not come out of this with flying colours, some of Colombia’s attack certainly impressed, particularly in the first half.

Damir Ceter (No. 9, Santa Fe), for one, as he repaid some of the faith his manager showed by starting him here, having come on as a goalscoring substitute in their previous match with Paraguay. Indeed, he left many with open mouths when he became the first name on the scoresheet with a fantastic 6th-minute golazo following a knock-down. He could well have scored again when he dispossessed a defender and charged into the area, but ultimately his heavy touch caused him to overrun the ball. However, though the opposition goalkeeper dispossessed Ceter, the ball nevertheless fell to Jorge Obregón (No. 19, Unión Magdalena), who did well to strike into the inviting net to double Colombia’s lead.

Juan ‘El Cucho’ Hernández (No. 10, América de Cali, on loan from Granada, Spain) again showed glimpses of why he’s already been snapped up by a European side noted for their intrepid scouting. He set up Ceter’s goal with his chest and should probably have scored himself in the 13th minute when he was played through, but his shot was too close to the goalkeeper.

Otherwise, brief praise for Kevin Balanta (No. 8, Deportivo Cali), who played Hernández in for his main opportunity, though a second yellow of the tournament means he misses the next game. Also, a simple note to state that whilst it was a great low ball to the back post that found Ever Valencia (No. 13, Atlético Bucaramanga) to make it 3-3, the goalscorer shouldn’t really have needed two bites at the cherry to do so.

To keep up-to-date with the latest from Ecuador 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter. The next games will be Peru vs Bolivia and Argentina vs Uruguay from Group B – expect to see another bout of talent-spotting from these encounters on Hispanospherical.com. 

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical