Iguarán puts neighbours Ecuador to the sword with two firm headers
¹ Some sources may claim 60,000
The city of Barranquilla on the northern Colombian shore is the setting for the opening game in qualifying Group 2, with the hosts facing neighbours Ecuador in the first of six group matches. Neither had much in terms of World Cup pedigree to shout about, with just a single participation throughout history between them: Colombia’s in 1962, when they’d picked up a solitary point from three group stage matches and exited early. However, they’d obtained that point through coming back from 4-1 down against the USSR.
Also, both sides had failed to progress from the group stages of the recently held Copa América, with Colombia finishing third behind Paraguay and Brazil in their group, whilst Ecuador had only needed a single point in their final match against Chile to advance on behalf of Uruguay. They suffered their first defeat of the tournament in going down 2-1, thus finishing fourth in their group.
One could rightly say that there was a certain buzz in Colombia around this time, as club side Atlético Nacional of Medellín had won the coveted Copa Libertadores tournament back in May, as the first ever Colombian club to do so. They had the majority of players in today’s matchday squad.
Colombia team news
Colombia had played a single friendly game since the Copa América: Two weeks ago, they’d drawn 0-0 with Uruguay in Montevideo. Among the 13 players who had been in action in the Estadio Centenario, 12 were still in the squad. Naturally, in the circumstances, they had a big emphasis on players from Atlético Nacional, the recently crowned continental champions, where Maturana was plying his daily trade as a manager. In the Copa América, eight of Colombia’s 20 players had hailed from the leading Medellín club, and despite slashing the squad number down to 16 for this their opening qualifier, eight Nacional players were still named in the squad.
For all their enterprising approach play, Colombia had shown during their run in the Copa that they had lacked a bit of punch up front. They had notched four in their opening win against lowly Venezuela, but then just mustered one from their remaining three matches. Veteran striker Arnoldo Iguarán had been the only striker to start all four matches, and he’d netted twice. He had worked with three different partners during those four group stage games, and only América de Cali’s Sergio ‘Checho’ Angulo had begun twice, with young John Jairo Tréllez and Rubén Hernández starting each their match. Neither Angulo nor Tréllez were in the squad for today’s tie.
One notable player who had returned to the squad since the Copa América was defensive midfielder José Ricardo Pérez. The 24 year old was another of the Atlético Nacional contingent. Dropping out was Atlético Nacional’s Alexis García.
Colombia had definitely looked to be a 4-4-2 unit, or even more precisely sat up in 4-2-2-2, during the recently held tournament, so it would hardly be a surprise to see them turn out in a similar formation once again.
Ecuador team news
Ecuador had looked very solid defensively during the Copa América, where they had just conceded twice in four matches, and that had been in their final game when they lost 2-1 to Chile, thus exiting before the final round. However, they’d just scored twice in the process, so they were hardly the continent’s biggest attacking force so far in the just over one year long tenure of Dušan Drašković.
The Yugoslav manager’s record since taking charge in June last year was 5-7-7. They had played a high number of matches in preparation for both the Copa and not least for this: the World Cup qualification. If the continental championships had been their penultimate test, then this was IT.
There was little doubt that Ecuador were in the role of the outsiders; Colombia were natural favourites. Still, Drašković felt that he had a settled team by now, and there had been next to no changes in their starting line-ups over the four matches long Copa América campaign. A red card to left-back Luis Capurro in their second match had led to one of these changes. Their pretty much straight-forward 4-4-2 formation would most likely be utilized once again.
The 14 players whom they had used in Brazil were again available to the manager. One should hardly expect much in terms of player changes on this occasion, too.
The officiating trio looked a particularly strong unit, considering how two of them had eached refereed a World Cup final: (linesman) Arnaldo Coelho (46) had been the man in the middle for the 1982 final between Italy and West Germany in Spain, while today’s referee, Romualdo Arppi Filho (50), had been in charge of the 1986 final in Mexico between Argentina and West Germany.
Arppi Filho, of São Paulo, had turned a FIFA referee at the tender age of 24, all the way back in 1963. Having begun his work abroad through refereeing in the Copa Libertadores in 1965, he would progress to officiating in the 1968 Olympic football tournament in Mexico, where he’d had two assignments, of which one had been the semi-final meeting between Hungary and Japan. 20 years ago, in 1969, he would have his first task of World Cup qualification, having been appointed for Ecuador v Uruguay ahead of the 1970 tournament in Mexico.
In turn, Arppi Filho continued refereeing in single World Cup qualifiers ahead of the 1974 and 1978 tournaments respectively, and then returned to the world stage for the 1980 Olympic tournament in Moscow, where he got two matches. A third Olympics participation saw him take charge of a solitary game in the Los Angeles games in ’84, while he would finally hit the jackpot in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where he had run the rule over the group stage game between France and the USSR, the round of 16 tie between the hosts and Bulgaria, and then the final in Mexico City.
Oddly, he’d not been assigned for the 1989 Copa América tournament. His 1987 participation in the continental championships had once again seen him turn out for the end game, as he’d been dealt the difficult task of trying to keep Uruguay and Chile amicable. It had been a brutal affair, where four red cards had been issued. Maybe this had played into his disfavour ahead of the tournament on his home soil two years later? Uruguay had ultimately triumphed in Buenos Aires.
There had been 23 earlier face-offs between the two neighbours, with Ecuador being 9-7-7 since the first clash back in 1938. This was just the third time they had been paired in the same World Cup qualifying group. It had happened before the 1966 tournament in England and the 1974 championships in West Germany. Ecuador had triumphed in both encounters in ’65, while the two meetings in ’73 had ended in 1-1 draws.
Most recently, Ecuador had beaten Colombia 3-0 in a 1987 friendly at home in Guayaquil, with eight of 13 in action for the hosts that day still among their squad of 16, while the Colombians’ figure in comparison was just five.
The Estadio Monumental had been inaugurated only three years earlier, and it had indeed been built with the idea of Colombia hosting the 1986 World Cup. The official capacity was said to be approximately 65,000 by the time of its opening. First ever match to take place here was a friendly between the city’s Atlético Junior and the Uruguayan national team, which the visitors had won 2-1 on May 11. Enzo Francescoli had been the first player to score.
|1 René Higuita||22||Atlético Nacional|
|2 Andrés Escobar||22||Atlético Nacional|
|4 Wilson Pérez||22||Atlético Junior|
|5 León Villa||29||Atlético Nacional|
|6 José Ricardo Pérez||25||Atlético Nacional|
|7 Albeiro Usuriaga||sub 69′||23||Atlético Nacional|
|10 Bernardo Redín||9′||26||Deportivo Cali|
|12 Carlos Valderrama (c)||27||Montpellier|
|14 Leonel Álvarez||24||Atlético Nacional|
|15 Luis Carlos Perea||25||Atlético Nacional|
|16 Arnoldo Iguarán||sub 81′||32||Millonarios|
|3 Alexis Mendoza||27||Atlético Junior|
|8 Gabriel Gómez||29||Independiente Medellín|
|11 Rubén Hernández||on 69′||24||Millonarios|
|17 Luis Fajardo||on 81′||26||Atlético Nacional|
|19 Eduardo Niño||22||Independiente Santa Fe|
¹ One source claims Wilmer Cabrera and Carlos Hoyos to be on the bench rather than Alexis Mendoza and Gabriel Gómez
|1 Carlos Morales||24||Barcelona|
|2 Jimmy Izquierdo||7′||28||Barcelona|
|3 Hólger Quiñónez||26||Barcelona|
|4 Wilson Macías||25′||23||Filanbanco|
|5 Kléber Fajardo||24||Emelec|
|6 Luis Capurro||28||Emelec|
|8 Álex Aguinaga||21||Deportivo Quito|
|10 Hamilton Cuvi (c)||sub 78′||28||Filanbanco|
|14 Raúl Avilés||25||Emelec|
|16 Julio César Rosero||24||El Nacional|
|19 Ermen Benítez||sub 64′||28||El Nacional|
|7 Pietro Marsetti||on 78′||24||LDU Quito|
|9 Byron Tenório||on 64′||24||El Nacional|
|x Víctor Mendoza||27||Aucas|
|17 Tulio Quinteros||26||Barcelona|
|x Enrique Verduga||25||Emelec|
The Estadio Metropolitano was pretty packed for the occasion, with an attendance figure which would be estimated to around 65,000 later in the afternoon. They generated plenty of noise for the first ever World Cup qualifier to take place here, though the crowd would gladly accept a minute’s honour prior to kick-off to commemorate the Colombian politician which had been killed only two days earlier: Luis Carlos Galán, aged 45, had made himself mightily unpopular with criminals at the helm of the infamous Medellín drug cartel, among which a certain Pablo Escobar was the chief. This had ultimately led to his assasination. Rather than silence, the large crowd opted to display their compassion through cheering.
Our video from the game does not show the actual kick-off, but in the sequences leading up to the minute’s silence, Ecuador’s wide midfield pair of Hamilton Cuvi, today’s captain, and the exciting Álex Aguinaga had been stood on the ball in the centre-spot, with more attack-minded players such as Raúl Avilés and Ermen Benítez lined up along each their side of the centre-circle. So the visitors would get the game commenced.
The early exchanges
The opening to the game is somewhat frenetic, and there is not an awful lot of quality in the first ten minutes. The hosts set out in order to see the threat of their opponents off through possession; they have several skillful players well capable of holding on to the ball in relatively tight situations. They do wish to involve various players, and it will quickly be revealed how the Colombian full-backs are important to the way the home side wish to portray themselves. Both Wilson Pérez along the right and León Villa opposite are willing, very willing, in fact, in attacking contribution.
There is a reason for why the hosts engage their wide defenders when coming forward: They play with a narrow central midfield, which has no designated widemen. In fact, rather than dub Colombia’s formation 4-4-2, one could well use the famous Telê Santana numbers combination 4-2-2-2, meaning that they operate with two balancing players as well as two men with plenty of attacking liberty. This is what necessitates for them to make use of attacking full-backs, so the way Maturana prefers his team to play demands a whole lot of both Wilson Pérez and Villa.
The visitors also show early on that they have a few players capable of keeping possession, even if they have shorter spells where they can rest with the ball among their players. Rising star Álex Aguinaga, who will in not long be on his way to the Mexican league and Necaxa of Aguascalientes in the central regions of the country, is one, though he is less prominent in the early exchanges in comparison to captain Hamilton Cuvi. The pair are the two designated midfield widemen, with Aguinaga originally working to the right, while Cuvi operates towards the left. However, both will from time to time abandon their original position and participate in more central areas, though it is fair to say that this is a trait belonging more to Cuvi than to Aguinaga.
Ecuador also have two players working in the centre of midfield, though their pair, Kléber Fajardo and Julio César Rosero, are not solely holding or advancing; both do a bit of both. If anything, Fajardo, one of three starters from reigning domestic champions Emelec of Guayaquil, is the one doing the greater levels of ‘dirty work’, while Rosero possibly has slightly more liberty in terms of making advance into Colombian territory. Not that he’s an ‘attacking midfielder’ in the direct sense of the term.
The Ecuadorian full-backs have much more attacking restrictions in their play than their Colombian counterparts. Neither Izquierdo nor Capurro participate much inside the opposition’s half. It is predominantly the two wide players and the two strikers who have the responsibility of conjuring up moments of brilliance inside the final third of the pitch.
Before the ten minute mark, there’s already been two bookings, though both are the result of Brazilian referee Arppi Filho’s need of promoting himself rather than let the game flow. Well, it may be claimed that he was trying to do precisely that, let the game flow, as he had felt that both Izquierdo and home midfielder Bernardo Redín had taken too long over their respective free-kicks from well outside the penalty area. However, both bookings appeared highly unnecessary, though once he’d shown Izquierdo yellow for waiting too long to deliever his shot, the ref would’ve felt the need to ‘make up for it’ by also displaying the yellow for Redín in quite similar fashion. Two wrongs don’t always make it right.
Opportunities in front of either goal are at a minimum so far, though the visitors did actually have a golden chance to move in front on 11 minutes. Aguinaga, who clearly has fine vision and the ability to strike a pass, saw how Ermen Benítez had run himself free behind two pressing Colombia defenders, Escobar and Villa, and young midfielder Aguinaga released the pass just in the right time, freeing his striker up for a pop at goal from 14 yards. However, Benítez seemed surprised to arrive at such an opportunity, for it was a big one, and totally scuffed his shot, which ultimately was pushed beyond the upright by Higuita’s low dive down to his right. Had the striker struck it cleanly, he’d have been odds-on to give Ecuador the lead.
The visitors are more direct than the hosts; they need fewer passes to arrive deep inside the hosts’ territory. They take fewer touches per player, and generally seek out team mates in more advanced positions than Colombia do. They operate with something of a target player in the strong and bulky Benítez, with the more agile and quick Raúl Avilés alongside him, the previous season’s leading scorer in the Ecuadorian league. Avilés doesn’t make much impression early on, as the visitors keep leaning on their two wide midfielders for creativity. So far, both Aguinaga and Cuvi have looked sound. The latter is displaying his ability to strike corner kicks with both feet: With his left foot from the right and with his right boot from the left. From either flag, the idea is to put pressure on Higuita.
Hosts Colombia are taking their time in coming forward, something which makes them less of a problem to defend against. They often elaborate in the centre of the park, where at least one player from both their midfield combinations, the rear and the advanced, seem to want a touch or more.
Villa along the left has probably been their busier player in the first quarter of an hour, with much presence inside the final third of the pitch, though either his crosses have failed to hit their intended target, or he’s opted to play the ball inside to either of Redín and Valderrama, who both wish to direct play for the home side. However, so far, their most influental midfielder has been the deep-lying Ricardo Pérez. He plays with confidence, composure and plenty of swagger, and looks totally cool at the back of their midfield.
When Colombia have been direct, it has happened along their right hand side, where the leggy, powerful, yet speedy Albeiro Usuriaga stays close to the touchline most of the time. Operating as a mix between an outright winger and a striker, he looks to leave Ecuador’s left-back Luis Capurro for dead as he injects pace along the right, and he’s made it to the byline on a couple of occasions, although his crosses, too, have failed to cause much trouble. Capurro needs to stay closer to him, and it also looks like their left-sided central defender, the hairy Hólger Quiñónez, is keeping watch towards the left should Usuriaga manage to force his way past Capurro.
The home side play with 22 year young defender Andrés Escobar, one of their seven Atlético Nacional starters, as their libero, meaning he operates somewhat retracted in the heart of their defence, to the left of the physically imposing Luis Carlos Perea, also his team mate at club level. They seem to have fine understanding, as you’d expect, though Perea’s been preciously little involved so far. It has often been Escobar who has taken the aerial challenges with Benítez, especially when there’s been a duel after a long kick from goalkeeper Morales. Escobar has a cultured left foot, and he is not foreign to spraying an angled ball out towards right-back Wilson Pérez, and he’d even been given the chance to shoot from that early free-kick which had seen Redín booked (though his shot had been wayward).
Down the other end, the Ecuadorian defensive line seems more square. It could be a result of their defensive line generally operating deeper than Colombia’s, but one fails to spot either centre-back dropping off behind the other in open play. They have 23 year old Filanbanco player Wilson Macías as their right-sided stopper, while Quiñónez is to his immediate left. The latter favours his left foot, and he lends a somewhat untidy impression, probably helped by his slightly scruffy appearance. Macías looks the more composed, but he’s yet to be properly challenged. It looks as if he is mainly concentrating on home striker Arnoldo Iguarán.
Quiñónez is one of three Barcelona (de Guayaquil) starters in the visitors’ select, with goalkeeper Carlos Morales, 24 years of age, and right-back Jimmy Izquierdo the two others. Morales appears to have made the goalkeeper’s position his own, as he’d also featured in all four Copa América ties. He had had an early wobble when he had wanted to pick the ball up to the right in his area, only for him to tumble and almost fall over, nearly giving the ball away to Villa, but he was another customer who otherwise looked collected. The same could be said about right-back Izquierdo (Spanish for ‘left’). Both full-backs were so far unadventurous, and solely concentrated on defending. It was Emelec’s Luis Capurro opposite from Izquierdo.
Colombia had almost territory-like instructions for their four midfielders: Two were working from the centre towards the right, two from the centre and towards the left, with these being Leonel Álvarez/Bernardo Redín and José Ricardo Pérez/Carlos Valderrama respectively. 24 year old Álvarez came with a fine reputation, but he had so far been rather underwhelming, at least in comparison to Pérez. Valderrama, who had yet to feature in the league this season for his French side Montpellier (in fact, he would not make his first appearance until November 8, as a substitute in a 1-1 home draw with Brest), had also not quite got going, even if he had shown glimpses of his passing ability. Redín, alongside him as an advanced midfielder, had featured more prominently in possession, and had looked to bulldoze his way forward, such as just after the 24 minute mark, when he’d been played in by Valderrama, and looked to take the ball past Macías. The latter had tripped him and earned a third yellow card of the match for his efforts. One should also note how Redín was playing with the number 10 shirt, which had belonged to Valderrama during the Copa América.
Colombia begin to assert pressure
25 minutes in, and Colombia begin to turn the screw. They test Morales several times in the next few minutes, and first up is Escobar, who has a pop from distance for a second time when he’s allowed to shoot following the foul on Redín. His effort along the ground 28 yards out is powerful, and the ‘keeper fails to hold it on the first time of asking, but he manages to get back up and snatch his own rebound away from under the nose of Valderrama, who was the nearest Colombian player. Two minutes on, Morales has to make a “TV save”, when he tips Redín’s effort from the edge of the area over the bar, and the same Colombian has another effort after the corner, when he strikes, right-footed again, from inside the area. Morales, having problems in holding on to hard shots, spills it, but Macías can boot the ball into touch.
There’s a bit of handbags between several players from each team when home striker Iguarán, who so far has been kept relatively quiet, perhaps an earlier header apart, robs the ball off Izquierdo and shoots left-footed from the edge of the area, only to see it go into the side-netting. The Ecuadorians probably saw it as Iguarán had fouled their right-back when nicking the ball, and as the striker had got his shot away, he had been heavily tackled by the rugged Macías. The referee probably made the right decision to keep his cards in his pocket on that occasion, despite the afters. And on 31 minutes, Morales needs to tip a Villa cross over the bar. Ecuador are under the cosh.
It was hardly a surprise that something had to give. Colombia’s pressure had lasted several minutes, and they kept earning set-pieces. From the next one, the visitors would be breached, as Wilson Pérez’ corner from the right found the head of Iguarán in the centre of the penalty area. The 32 year old Millonarios striker may not be the tallest, but he lept like a salmon and connected so powerfully that the ‘keeper was left with no chance. It was as delicious a header as you’ll see. 1-0 to the hosts.
Can Ecuador hit back?
Colombia maintain their grip on the proceedings even after the goal, although they do not manage to replicate the six-seven minute long spell of pressure which had preceded the goal. They are clearly the more inventive of the two teams, stronger in possession and with greater creativity, and they are steady defensively, whereas Ecuador muster absolutely nothing since going behind and through to half time. Perea and Escobar are in control against the threat from Avilés and Benítez, while Aguinaga’s final ball has let him down from the Ecuadorian right hand side lately. Cuvi has failed to keep his width along the left, and as a result, their attacking play has been cramped.
The hosts had been awarded several free-kicks from 26-30 yards away from goal, though they had not profitted entirely from either opportunity to have a direct pop or to play it into the centre. Both Wilson Pérez and Escobar had had attempts; the latter had even had a poor shot with his right (!) foot forcing the right wing corner from which they’d take the lead. Redín had at times bullied Fajardo and Rosero in that Ecuador midfield, while Valderrama had yet to properly ignite. Usuriaga had also been kept quiet since a promising start, though Iguarán, even before the goal, had begun to come more into it. His header which found the back of the net had been world class. His leap had been spectacular.
The referee, who had looked fussy initially, especially in awarding the two early yellows, only allowed for 25 seconds of additional time in the first half, and as he blew his whistle, the vociferous crowd could pronounce their delight at how their heros had found a way through to lead at half-time.
Colombia were decent value for their half-time lead, even if they could ill afford to rest on their laurels. Winning the opening qualifier at home in a three-team group is essential, so letting the visitors back into it was not an option. As for the away side, they would need to up their game were they to get anything from the tie. So far, they had just had that early Benítez threat, whereas other than that their attempts had come from distance.
With the two teams back out on the pitch, it was evident to the 65,000 strong crowd that there had been no half-time substitutions, and so it was the hosts this time to kick us back under way. The midfield duo of Redín and Valderrama set the game in motion again.
More of the same
Ecuador had tried to sit compact, and to catch the hosts off guard through direct balls in the forward direction. They had not committed a lot of men forward, focusing on defensive security first and foremost, relying on the individual exuberance of players like Aguinaga, Cuvi and Avilés. However, not a lot had come of it in the first half, but despite this, they would start the second half very much in identical fashion. They did not worry much about the Colombians having the bulk of the possession.
Defensively, Ecuador had seemed fairly sound. Goalkeeper Morales had conceded a couple of rebounds, but none which had led to any further danger. Macías at the heart of their defence had struggled in the air against Iguarán, and he had also committed a few fouls, some which had led to free-kicks within shooting range for the home side. His partner Quiñónez had first and foremost concentrated on the threat from Usuriaga, and he continued with more of the same now after the break. Ecuador left-back Capurro had been picked in the ‘team of the group stage’ in the Copa América recently, but when the super-quick Usuriaga had turned on the accelerator, he had found it difficult to live with the lanky forward. Still, the latter did not have much precision in his crosses.
Colombia’s style of play also mirrored what we’d seen in the first half: They wanted their two attacking midfielders to be on the ball, and they wanted to have both full-backs coming forward to deliever crosses. With Usuriaga working more or less as a right-sided forward, Wilson Pérez’ contributions in the forward direction were fewer than those of Villa opposite. The home team’s left-back has plenty of space to move into, and with Valderrama being the player more orientated towards the left hand side of the pitch among the two playmakers, it is him who will often look for Villa. In the rear of their midfield, Álvarez and Ricardo Pérez continue to patrol, and both do so effectively.
The famous eccentricity of Colombia’s goalkeeper René Higuita has not been much on display so far, although he did act as sweeper on one occasion, when the visitors had been looking to play the nippy Avilés in behind the hosts’ defensive line. Higuita came well outside his area to collect the through ball, and to the amusement of the audience, he took a couple of touches with Avilés chasing him, before he fed Ricardo Pérez. This was the 22 year old custodian’s 13th appearance for his country. He had looked impressive in claiming a couple of corners during the first half.
With the Ecuadorians, and centre-back Macías in particular, having committed a good few fouls inside the final third of the pitch, there had been plenty of opportunities for the hosts to try themselves from range. This trend even continued after the break, when Redín had been fouled by Capurro and later by Macías. Escobar, again, had given his shooting boot airtime on the first occasion, with the free-kick being to the right outside the area, in perfect range for a left-footed shooter. He’d tried to curl it towards the far top corner, but the ball evaded the goal by a yard or so. Redín would be behind the next attempt himself, and from the opposite side outside the box, his effort went half a yard over.
Time for changes
The second half does not contain a lot of pace, but with Colombia’s lead still being slender, there is tension nevertheless. The hosts can not allow themselves to drop their standards.
Ecuador had been unable to cause much in terms of harm in front of Higuita, and manager Drašković had had his bulky forward Byron Tenório warm up for a few minutes already by the time he decides to make his first change. Tenório, 23, had started all four of their games in the Copa América, only to be substituted on each occasion. Having started on the bench here, he was brought on to replace his team mate at club level Benítez, who had not enjoyed much of a fruitful afternoon. Drašković seemed to prefer playing with the classic ‘little and large’ combination up front, as Avilés would preferably feed off his physically more imposing partner, whether it be Benítez or now Tenório.
A few minutes in the wake of that first substitution, the hosts would be making their first change of the game, too. In the first half, Usuriaga had shown some early promise, but ultimately, little had come of his bursts along the right, and Maturana had now decided that it was time to let the number 7 sit down. Coming on in Usuriaga’s place was Rubén Darío Hernández, a 24 year old of Millonarios, meaning that he would be partnering his team mate at club level, Iguarán, up top. Hernández had featured once in the Copa, starting in the 0-0 draw against hosts Brazil.
While little had seemed to change for Ecuador since their substitution, perhaps other than Avilés from time to time now being seen a little bit deeper, almost as if he’s doing some defensive cover work for Cuvi, the Colombian substitution had meant that Iguarán, who had been playing through the centre or slightly towards the left, now instead sought towards right-sided attacking territory unless he found himself down the middle. This was due to Hernández’ entry. While Usuriaga had featured down the right, the home side’s substitute clearly favoured the left hand side.
Another home goal
Right-back Wilson Pérez had assisted goalscorer Iguarán for 1-0, and when the same striker notches again, it is thanks to the 22 year old Atlético Junior star once more. This time the goal comes about after Redín has been impeded by Fajardo some 30 yards from goal, and when the playmaker pokes the ball for Pérez to aim it into the centre, the aerial expert once again crushes Macías in the air to plant another header firmly into the back of the net. While his first had been a world class finish, the second is more about pure power, and ‘keeper Morales can’t get down quickly enough to keep it out. They may not have created a lot in ways of goalscoring opportunities, Colombia, but they nevertheless have added a second goal to the scoreline. This is getting very respectable, while little seems to be going for the visitors.
Second visitors’ substitution
Ecuador make their second and final change with 12 minutes left for play. It had looked increasingly like captain Cuvi had run out of steam, and it was his turn to give way as manager Drašković made his last throw of the dice: On came midfielder Pietro Marsetti, a 24 year old from Quito club LDU, who would slot into the right-sided midfield position, with Aguinaga switching across to the left. The latter had not quite managed to stamp his authority on the game like one could perhaps have hoped, and could he increase his level of presence down the left hand side instead? Marsetti, incidentally, had been given the captain’s armband as he took over from Cuvi.
Prior to Ecuador’s latest substitution, Colombia had carved out a further couple of openings. The first had involved an excellent run from left-back Villa, who made it from inside his own half until the final third of the pitch, when he played in Hernández. The substitute took a couple of touches, raced into the area, before he fired a low, left-footed effort towards the near post. Morales made a fine save low down by his upright. Moments after, Hernández, who was looking very lively, had darted through the centre before he sat Iguarán up to the left in the area, only for Ecuador right-back Izquierdo to get a tackle in as the striker was pulling the trigger.
The Ecuadorians were sadly punchless up front, and it had not helped much to bring Tenório on for Benítez. However, Avilés had begun to come to life; the Emelec forward was doing a lot of running into positions. He was beginning to look their more likely player to carve something out. Marsetti had played a couple of long diagonal balls from the right, both in Avilés’ direction, though Colombia had dealt with it well, and it had even given Higuita another excuse to dart outside his area to act as sweeper.
Iguarán takes a seat
Two goal hero Iguarán had been a big nuisance to the visitors, and particularly to Macías, who had been unable to contain him in the air. The 32 year old striker had needed some treatment after his second goal; it had looked to be cramp. He would go on for a few minutes more, and in that time he had had that effort thwarted by Izquierdo, before he got his head to a Villa cross from the left, only to see his header go well over as he was under close surveillance by Quiñónez. That was his final piece of action, and Maturana replaced him with another player from the Atlético Nacional contingent in Luis Fajardo, a 25 year old attacking midfielder.
So nearly a third
It was quite easy to take a liking to Colombia’s substitute Hernández, who was looking a menace down that left hand side since coming on. He was quick, inventive, and used his low centre of gravity to shield the ball and conjure up opportunities both for himself and for his team mates. Next was when he delievered another cross from the left which found fellow substitute Fajardo in the area. The latter had during the three minutes which he’d been on the pitch resembled more a midfielder than an attacker, with Valderrama looking to have moved into an even more advanced position. Fajardo got to the ball just before Ecuador’s centre-back Quiñónez, and his quick header smacked off the bar with Morales beaten. Unfortunately, he had a clash of heads with Quiñónez, from which the Colombian came off the worse, needing treatment on the sidelines before he was able to continue.
The end phase
There is almost five minutes of added time in the second half. Our tape lacks nearly seven minutes of action from the final period, though we suspect that a lot of this is treatment time to stricken players. The final few minutes are certainly not short of action, as there could’ve been goals both ways, although the hosts always look the more likely to score and increase their lead, rather than Ecuador getting a goal back.
Valderrama, who certainly operates almost as a second striker since the introduction of Fajardo, displays his excellent vision when he attempts to thread a pass through for Hernández, and though the ball reaches the forward between two opponents, the substitute is just offside. Nearly four minutes into additional time, Valderrama got on the end of a Fajardo pass inside the area, though he could not strike cleanly, tumbling over as he hit it, with the outcome that his effort sliced diagonally wide of Morales’ left hand post. Quiñónez then stops Hernández’ run and should’ve been rewarded with a yellow, though the referee, who had felt like stamping his authority early in the tie, didn’t even talk to the defender. The ensuing free-kick was the last bit of action, as Wilson Pérez struck it into the defensive wall.
Down the other end, it had been a painful end to the game for the hapless Aguinaga, who had been tackled firmly by the excellent Wilson Pérez as he was about to swing a cross over from the left. He was seen hobbling as he couldn’t even make it out to the corner flag to deliever the kick, rather leaving for left-back Capurro to deal with it. The corner eventually found its way to Avilés inside the area, and he struck a firm shot which just went past the target, though there had been an offside decision against Marsetti in the sequence just before.
Colombia always look the more equipped side, displaying plenty of midfield authority, and they generally boss the first half, in which defensive midfielder Ricardo Pérez is excellent. They eventually put the visitors under some sustained pressure around the half hour mark, and they deservedly go in front through Iguarán’s fantastic header from Wilson Pérez’ right wing corner.
The second half sees more possession for the home side, with Ecuador looking lightweight up front. There’s not a whole lot for Higuita to do, and the Colombian full-backs keep coming forward to join in attack. Villa down the left had featured more prominently than Pérez, though crossing had let him down. Pérez it was again who fed Iguarán for the veteran striker’s second headed goal, and they could’ve added further goals in the final stage of the game. A 2-0 win would suffice, and Maturana was surely extatic post-match, with Drašković heading back to the drawing board to ponder their next move.
1 Higuita 7.0
displays his eccentricity a few times when coming way outside his area, but generally has little to do. Punches and holds on to a couple of corners; looks secure when called into action
2 Escobar 7.3
the Colombia libero, who is unbeatable in the air, and who enjoys to distribute angled balls with his left foot, the same foot which he strikes at goal from distance with several times
4 Wilson Pérez 7.6
competent in possession, a willing customer coming forward, and faced little threat directly down his flank from an opponent who prefered to come inside. Assisted for both goals
5 Villa 7.0
a very attacking display, but despite getting into crossing positions, his final ball would often let him down. Defensively had the tendency to dart out of position and leave gaps behind him
6 Ricardo Pérez 7.4
gives a bossy first half impression, when he is in control at the rear end of their midfield: plays with confidence and swagger, and distributes well, but less influental after the break
7 Usuriaga 6.7
gets to stretch his long legs early on. Staying out wide right, he tends to drift out of the game, and his success rate at crossing was disappointing
(11 Hernández –
comes on in a left-sided attacking capacity, and shows plenty of enthusiasm. Crossed both for Iguarán’s header over and for Fajardo’s against the bar, and even tested Morales with low drive)
10 Redín 7.3
several powerful bursts, and so difficult to stop once he got into his stride. Drew a fine first half save from Morales, and saw plenty of the ball inside the opposition’s half. Influental
12 Valderrama 7.0
more had probably been expected, but he let Redín and Ricardo Pérez run the show. Displayed a couple of times his wonderful vision and exquisite technique, but generally not involved as much as he might have wanted. Finished up front
14 Álvarez 6.9
defensively so well positioned when called upon, but with Colombia in possession he was almost surplus to requirements. Clearly less influental than fellow defensive midfielder Pérez
15 Perea 6.9
keeps it simple and is less expressive than his partner at centre half, though he’s a physical monster, and also has few problems with either opponent in the air
16 Iguarán 7.7
Two massive goals, the first a true peach: What a leap! A tenacious character who also threatened on a couple of other occasions, and rarely stood still. Took a while to get going
(17 Fajardo –
came on as an attacking midfielder, and had energy about him, showing a couple of fine runs on the ball. Unfortunate when his brave header smacked off the bar)
1 Morales 6.9
despite an early wobble and his failure to hold on to a couple of efforts from distance, he leaves a sound impression. Not at fault for either goal, and produces some fine saves
2 Izquierdo 6.6
has no attacking contribution other than firing in a couple of poor free-kicks. Defensively challenged when Colombia introduce Hernández, though he had been able to put Villa under pressure for his crossing until then
3 Quiñónez 6.7
a strong competitor, but a bit untidy positioning-wise, and can be a defensive liability at times. Enjoys a booted clearance, and can also be prone to advancing ball at feet. Pacy
4 Macías 6.5
a no-nonsense player, but crucially fails to contain Iguarán in the air, and also suffers somewhat from his first half booking
5 Fajardo 6.9
he is the more industrious player in the Ecuadorian engine room, though his task is mainly to try and break up play. Relishes a challenge, but also realizes his limitations in possession
6 Capurro 6.7
focused almost entirely on his defensive duties. Struggled for pace against Usuriaga, but looked more confident when Quiñónez decided to assist him
8 Aguinaga 6.7
the creator of Benítez’ first half chance, and clearly has vision and the ability to thread a pass. Alas, he can’t set his print on proceedings, as he largely remains anonymous out along the right, and probably suffers a little from meagre support from behind
10 Cuvi 7.0
accepts plenty of responsibility as captain, and is involved from his original wide left position, from which he comes inside both in and out of possession. Corner taker. Fails to connect first time from opening half Aguinaga cross
(7 Marsetti –
comes into the right-sided midfield position and hits a couple of long passes without much conviction. Unable to inspire his team mates)
14 Avilés 6.8
is predominantly contained during the first half, but as the game progresses, he will find little pockets of space to make use of, though he’s no goal threat
16 Rosero 6.3
exerted little midfield influence, and he was often found running between. Not the same battling ability of his compatriot Fajardo, but tested his left foot from distance a couple of times, albeit with little luck
19 Benítez 6.0
loses in the air against both Colombian centre-backs, and proves wasteful when presented with his first half golden opportunity. Stationary. Made sense when he came off
(9 Tenório 5.9
offers little after coming on, and his brief performance mirrors that of his predecessor)