Brazil miss Neymar as feeble show opens door to Copa quarters for Ecuador

By Sports Desk June 27, 2021

Neymar, a mask hanging from his left ear, took a bite from a bar and gestured this way and that. This was a game the world's most expensive player was happy to sit out, his unique talents probably better saved for another occasion.

Such as that which awaits Brazil on Friday, back at the Estadio Olimpico Nilton Santos in Rio de Janeiro, when Uruguay or Chile will be the opposition for Tite's team.

This Sunday showdown with Ecuador was one for La Tri to savour and the Selecao to get out of the way, perhaps learn a thing or two but ideally come through unscathed and with a thing or two for the head coach to mull over before the knockout stage begins.

So Ecuador made the most of their opportunity to face Brazil at just about their most meek, the 1-1 draw sending Gustavo Alfaro's team through to the Copa America quarter-finals and a likely clash with Argentina next.

Whoever Ecuador do come up against next, they will be back here at the Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico in Goiania, where after holding the five-time World Cup winners to a deserved draw they had every reason to celebrate.

Ecuador are through to the Copa last eight for just the second time in the 21st century, and they were full value for their point as they finished above Venezuela and brought Brazil's 10-game winning streak – a record for Tite at the helm of the national team – to an end.

But what of Brazil? Tite made a raft of changes to ensure his hand will be as strong as possible for when the stiff competition begins, and it was hard to pick a promoted player who did his hopes of starting that quarter-final any good.

Certainly not Roberto Firmino, who started behind Gabriel Barbosa and played just 17 passes and had a mere 25 touches before being substituted midway through the second half. The Liverpool forward did not have a single goal attempt, and strikeforce spearhead Barbosa had only one, an early prod at a clever lobbed pass from Lucas Paqueta.

It fell to defender Eder Militao to show the Brazil attackers the route to goal, his neat header in the 37th minute opening the scoring.

Militao, Paqueta and Douglas Luiz danced away in a presumably rehearsed celebration, and you wondered if that was the kickstart this flat Brazil performance needed, the cue for a raising of their game.

'Vibra el continente' read the pitchside boards – 'Rock the continent'.

Brazil were rocking in a shy way here though, enjoying 71.1 per cent of first-half possession but not looking in the mood for a kill.

Angelo Preciado saw a thumping shot deflect just over the bar early in the second half as Ecuador chased an equaliser, and Enner Valencia also went close with a low strike before Angel Mena lashed past Alisson to level up in the 53rd minute.

Mena became the second substitute to score for Ecuador at this year's Copa, after Gonzalo Plata. Only Brazil (four) have benefited from more goals via a substitute this tournament.

A clever headed pass by Valencia set up the chance for the equaliser as Brazil's defence nodded off, and Ecuador went on to dominate the half, even swinging the possession dial around in their favour. They had 50.8 per cent of the ball in the second 45 minutes, five goals attempts to Brazil's two. Sebas Mendez was a titan in midfield, albeit against semi-interested opposition, winning possession a game-high 10 times and finding his man with 48 of his 50 passes over the 90 minutes.

 

Valencia was denied by a brave defensive header from Militao, who got to Preciado's dangerous cross just ahead of the former West Ham striker, and Ecuador then wanted a penalty when the ball struck Everton on the arm.

Mena almost scored a stunning second for Ecuador when his free-kick from close to the right touchline was whipped in with audacious curl and dip, forcing Alisson to tip over his crossbar.

Richarlison and Vinicius Junior came on as Tite looked to spark Brazil to life, but there was to be no ignition. It was the first time the reigning Copa America champions had scored at least one goal at the CONMEBOL showpiece and did not win since the 2015 edition.

Brazil are unbeaten against Ecuador in their last 11 games now, and this result probably matters very little, given the wins over Colombia, Peru and Venezuela that preceded it.

Moreover, the theory that you are only as good as your last game hardly applies when you rest the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Thiago Silva, Casemiro and Fred.

Yet Neymar, as he took another gnaw at his touchline snack, might have wondered when a Brazil team had ever looked so passive as this side did after the interval.

Related items

  • Hoping for the best: Eve on edge about players' fitness as T&T faces tight window ahead of qualifiers Hoping for the best: Eve on edge about players' fitness as T&T faces tight window ahead of qualifiers

    Having selected what he believes is the best crop of players to secure qualification to the 2026 Fifa World Cup, Trinidad and Tobago’s Head coach Angus Eve is no hoping everything will go accordingly, both where performances and player fitness is concerned.

    In fact, Eve, who named his provisional 39-player squad last Friday, would love nothing but to have his final Soca Warriors squad –when narrowed down –hit the ground running with positive results to start their Concacaf World Cup qualifying campaign against Grenada and then Bahamas on June 5 and 8 respectively. They will host Grenada at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, before visiting Bahamas a few days later.

    "These 39 players are the ones we think can give us the best chance to start off on a positive head and try to win these two matches and start off with six points in the qualifiers, one game at a time,” Eve said in a recent interview with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) media.

    The tactician, who is aiming to host a camp between June 1 and June 3, pointed out that it was a challenge to gather the team earlier due to players’ club obligations. It is for this reason that he is hoping players will come into camp fit and ready to go, given that they will only assemble a few days before kick off.

    “Players' safety (is a concern) and all these kinds of things. It is terrible that the window starts on (June) 3rd and we have to play on the 5th, so players have to travel on the 3rd, most of the players. On the 1st and 2nd we still have players playing matches outside. We have the locally-based players playing in a final this coming week, a couple days before the game. We still have to look and see who will come through those games unscathed,” Eve shared.

    That said, Eve explained the reason behind gifting players such as Tyrese Spicer, Dantaye Gilbert and Steffen Yeates, their first senior team invitation. While Spicer, 23, and Gilbert, 19, has represented the twin island republic at the youth level, Yeates, 24, is breaking into his first national team.

    “Young Spicer has been doing tremendously well for Toronto FC. We did try to get him and [Wayne] Fredericks for the two Jamaica friendlies, but he [Spicer] had an injury at that point in time and also Fredericks had an injury in that time, so we never got them. It is a delight for us to actually have the opportunity to call him [Spicer] up,” Eve noted.

    “We have also been behind Steffen Yeates since last October. We have really been having good conversations with him, but there were some administrative issues. We think we are very close to sorting out his documents, so we wanted to put him in the training squad, so just in case that his documents come through, he will already be in the squad,” he added.

    Like Spicer and Yeates, Eve said Netherlands-based Gilbert was always a part of his plans, but he wanted to bide his time with the young midfielder.

    “We have been following Dantaye; the tricky thing about these things is that when a young player goes to Europe you want (to allow) him to settle in at his club first before you drag him out of his club. If he stays over there for three, four months and get that quality training in that high-intensity environment then he is going to be better for us when he comes back to the national team,” he ended.

    T&T Provisional squad:

    Goalkeepers: Denzil Smith (Club Sando), Aaron Enill (Prison FC), Christopher Biggette (Defence Force), Adrian Foncette (Miscellaneous Police FC).

    Defenders: Andre Raymond (unattached), Jesse Williams (Chattanooga FC—USA), Sheldon Bateau (SK Beveren—Belgium), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery—USA), Triston Hodge (Hartford Athletic—USA), Ross Russell (Terminix La Horquetta Rangers), Aubrey David (CS Cartagines—Costa Rica), Alvin Jones, Robert Primus (both Miscellaneous Police FC), Isaiah Garcia, Justin Garcia (both Defence Force), Josiah Trimmingham (Montego Bay Utd—Jamaica), Shannon Gomez (San Antonio FC—USA).

    Midfielders: Duane Muckette, Michel Poon-Angeron (both AC Port of Spain), Kevon Goddard (Defence Force), Andre Rampersad (HFX Wanderers—Canada), Kristian Lee Him (Eskilstuna), Dantaye Gilbert (Jong PSV—Netherlands), Steffen Yeates (Pacific FC—Canada), Molik Khan (Minnesota Utd II—USA), Daniel Phillips (St Johnstone FC—Scotland), Ajani Fortune (Atlanta United—USA)Matthew Woo Ling (Defence Force), Noah Powder (Northern Colorado Hailstorm—USA).

    Attackers: Kaile Auvray, Nathaniel James (both Mount Pleasant FC—Jamaica), Real Gill (Northern Colorado Hailstorm—USA), Reon Moore (Pacific FC—Canada), Malcolm Shaw (Cavalry FC), Levi Garcia (AEK Athens—Greece), Tyrese Spicer (Toronto FC—Canada), Ezekiel Kesar (Point Fortin Civic), Kevon Woodley (Morvant Caledonia Utd), Ryan Telfer (HFX Wanderers—Canada).

  • De Jong and Depay make final Netherlands squad for Euro 2024, Maatsen cut De Jong and Depay make final Netherlands squad for Euro 2024, Maatsen cut

    Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay have been included in the Netherlands' final Euro 2024 squad despite fitness concerns, with Borussia Dortmund's Ian Maatsen among those cut.

    Earlier this month, coach Ronald Koeman named a 30-man preliminary squad for the Oranje's Euro 2024 campaign, which begins against Poland on June 16.

    De Jong was included despite not playing for Barcelona since April 21 due to an ankle issue, while Atletico Madrid's Depay only recently returned to action following a six-week spell on the sidelines.

    Both players have avoided being cut from Koeman's initial selection, with Atalanta's Marten De Roon already confirmed as missing out due to a muscle injury.

    Joining De Roon in missing the tournament are Feyenoord's Quinten Timber and Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper Nick Olij.

    Perhaps more surprisingly, Dortmund's Chelsea loanee Maatsen – who will face Real Madrid in the Champions League final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday – has been cut.

    After taking on Poland in Hamburg, the Oranje face France in a heavyweight clash in Leipzig then round off their Group D campaign against Ralf Rangnick's Austria.

    Final 26-man Netherlands squad: Justin Bijlow (Feyenoord), Mark Fleken (Brentford), Bart Verbruggen (Brighton and Hove Albion), Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Daley Blind (Girona), Stefan de Vrij (Inter), Lutsharel Geertruida (Feyenoord), Denzel Dumfries (Inter), Matthijs de Ligt (Bayern Munich), Jeremy Frimpong (Bayer Leverkusen), Micky van de Ven (Tottenham), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Ryan Gravenberch (Liverpool), Teun Koopmeiners (Atalanta), Tijjani Reijnders (Milan), Jerdy Schouten (PSV), Xavi Simons (RB Leipzig), Joey Veerman (PSV), Georginio Wijnaldum (Al-Ettifaq), Steven Bergwijn (Ajax), Brian Brobbey (Ajax), Memphis Depay (Atletico Madrid), Cody Gakpo (Liverpool), Donyell Malen (Borussia Dortmund), Wout Weghorst (Hoffenheim).

  • Flick believes possession-based style makes him ideal Barcelona boss Flick believes possession-based style makes him ideal Barcelona boss

    Hansi Flick believes the philosophy and principles of Barcelona closely resemble his own and is excited to get started after succeeding Xavi at Camp Nou.

    On Wednesday, Barca confirmed former Bayern Munich boss Flick had signed a two-year contract to take over as head coach following Xavi's surprise dismissal. 

    Xavi had initially announced his departure in January, only for president Joan Laporta to convince him to conduct a U-turn and commit his future to the club. Amid reports of unrest behind the scenes, Barca then decided to part ways with the former midfielder.

    Flick, who won two Bundesliga titles and the Champions League during a two-year spell with Bayern, is committed to conforming to Barca's traditions.

    "It's a big honour and a dream for me to sign my contract here in Barcelona, with this amazing club," he told the club's media channels.

    "The club is unbelievable. In the hours I was here in Barcelona, it has been amazing. Everyone loves the club and wants to have success.

    "The philosophy they have for the club, it's similar to mine, with more possession and really attacking football. These are the things I love.

    "Barcelona has one of the best academies in the world, a mix between some of the best players in the world and young, talented players. 

    "I won some titles with Bayern Munich and my hunger for titles is really big. I would like to stay on this path with Barcelona and I think we can achieve a lot together."

    Flick's Bayern side were known for their high-pressing, possession-based brand of football. 

    Between his appointment in November 2019 and his exit in June 2021, they averaged the highest possession share in the Bundesliga (62.55 per cent) and won the ball in the final third 489 times, 172 clear of Borussia Dortmund, who were second by that metric (317).

    They also led the way for wins (45), total shots (1,023) and goals (174) in that span, averaging exactly three goals per Bundesliga outing.

    Barca will hope Flick's arrival gets more out of Robert Lewandowski, who set the Bundesliga's single-season goal record under him in 2020-21, netting 41 times in 29 matches.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.