Ecuador’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout phase of the 2011 U-20 World Cup received a significant dent with a 2-0 defeat to Spain in Manizales on Wednesday.
Coach Sixto Vizuente made no changes to the side that had drawn 1-1 with Australia in their opening match and would have been satisfied with an even first half in which both teams threatened.
Ecuador also made a promising start to the second half and had just created a couple of decent chances before the moment upon which the match turned. Chasing down a Spanish forward on the counter-attack, the until-then impressive defensive midfielder Christian Ona received his second booking after pulling back on the shirt of his opponent, reducing Ecuador to ten men with 25 minutes still to play.
Spain had recently introduced Sergio Canales to the play, and the playmaker revelled in the additional space provided to him by Ecuador’s reduced manpower. Just two minutes after the sending off, Cristian Tello dispossessed John Narvaez – who made a number of similar errors that had previously gone unpunished – and pulled back for Canales to fire home.
The Spanish controlled possession thereafter, forcing a couple of saves out of John Jaramillo in the Ecuadorian goal. They added certainty to the result in the 85th minute, Alvaro Vazquez getting in behind Dennys Quiñonez onto Canales’ through-ball and finishing calmly past a hesitant Jaramillo.
Until his dismissal, Ona was one of the most impressive players on the park, reading the game well to intercept in the centre of midfield and passing crisply forwards. The forward pairing of Marlon De Jesus and Edson Montaño combines strength, power and decent pace, and both held up the ball well without quite being able to combine to the level perhaps expected of them.
As previously mentioned, Narvaez was very error prone in the centre of defence, giving the ball away in dangerous areas on three occasions and also struggling to track runs in behind him. Juan Govea had a shocking match on the right of midfield, a poor touch and consistently misdirected passes his chief crimes. Marcos Caicedo continues to excite and disappoint in equal measure – he is a pacey and powerful yet skillful dribbler, but his final ball and shots are often of very poor quality, and there was one moment that encapsulated the frustration he fosters. In the 39th minute he picked up the ball in the final third, went on slalom run past two defenders to put himself clean through on goal only to slice his effort horribly wide at the near post.
But despite some below par performances from certain players, Ecuador could be proud of their showing against an excellent Spanish team who will have to be among the favourites for the competition.
The result puts Ecuador in danger of not qualifying for the knockout phase, with only one point gained from their two matches thus far. The top two from each of the six groups, plus the four best third placed teams, qualify for the last sixteen and although it is theoretically possible that a point from their final match could see Vizuete’s men through as one of those best third placed teams, a victory is the only result that would guarantee progression.
Ecuador face Costa Rica on Sunday (6th) at 17:00 Colombian time, 23:00 UK, midnight CET, etc.
Highlights from Spain match below: