Ecuador Coach Reinaldo Rueda approaches his side’s opening group fixture with Paraguay saddling a significant amount of pressure from disgruntled fans unimpressed with the country’s lacklustre preparation to the Copa America 2011. The majority of this unrest stems from a disappointing friendly defeat for La Tri, dished out by what was effectively a Mexico youth team merely a week before the tournament commenced. The Colombian Coach’s record so far amounts to two wins, seven draws and four defeats. This is a far from disgraceful achievement given the stature of Ecuador, if it is a little uninspiring. However, it is clear a large section of the fans would still prefer to see previous Coach Sixte Vizuete, an Ecuadorian, at the helm for La Tri.
Despite the outside demands from supporters for improvements, players seem focused on the job at hand and appear to back Rueda, echoed in Antonio Valencia’s denouncing of the behaviour of supporters during the Mexico game. The Tricolour boast a fit and on-form attacking partnership of Cristian Benitez and Felipe Caicedo who will likely head Rueda’s 4-4-2 line-up. The rest of Rueda’s squad is basically at full-strength, with the only omission being winger Luis Saritama who limped out with a muscle pull sustained during pre-tournament club action. The Coach lamented this loss, saying: “It
The last time Ecuador met with Paraguay was in the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, when La Tri suffered a heavy 5-1 defeat. However, at the present time they are set to face a Paraguay side rapidly approaching the end of an era, who also face fitness concerns over star players such as Roque Santa Cruz. The latter struggled to make an impact at club level last season, which can also be said for many more of Paraguay’s regular internationals. It is the opposite case for Ecuador however, with several of La Tri’s attacking players flourishing, and this momentum in form could see Rueda’s men edge this fixture should he ensure all his players all find top gear.
With Antonio Valencia harbouring the potential to be one of the greatest Ecuadorian players of all time, many followers will be looking to the Manchester United star to carry the can for La Tri in this year’s Copa America. Should he and the rest of his teammates click, then fans of the Tricolour can begin to dream of making real progress in this prestigious tournament.