Back to back league titles for Emelec were enough for Gustavo Quinteros to attract the attention of Ecuadorian Football Association. In the 44th edition of Copa America, Ecuador will be bidding for its maiden title under the guidance of the newly appointed manager. Ecuador is in Group A, alongside Bolivia, Chile, and Mexcio.
Quinteros has been hailed for the adaptation of a playing style at Emelec that resembles the style of Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone. Hopes were high when he debuted as the manager of Ecuador against Mexico. Even though his team lost 1-0, the performance was not bad. Up against Argentina in the next friendly, Ecuador enjoyed a major share of the possession (69%) and kept on banging oppositions doors. Eventually, the star-studded Argentina won by a single goal margin.
Quinteros preferred a 4-4-2 system while coaching Emelec, and has continued with the same with the national team. The picture shows a predicted line-up but since most of the players in the 23-man final squad are from Emelec, Quinteros can always field a team completely made of Emelec players.
As Felipe Caicedo is not taking part in the tournament due to an injury, Quinteros is expected to play Miller Bolanos of Emelec alongside Enner Valencia of West Ham. Fidel Martinez and Jefferson Montero will be the wingers flanking them. Christian Noboa and Osbaldo Lastra form the central midfield pair. Walter Ayovi, Frickson Erazo, Gabriel Achilier and Juan Carlos Parades form the back four. Antonio Valencia is not participating.
Quinteros is expected to adopt the technique he used at Emelec. That means we can expect a narrow 4-4-2 formation during the defensive phase and a quick counter-attacking transition phase.
Bolanos is a gifted center forward who has been in top form in the last two seasons. He has the ability to read the game very well and drop into the space between the attacking and midfield lines to provide passing options for his teammates. The same can be said about Valencia. In the recent games, Bolanos and Caicedo showed great understanding and complemented each other. It will be now up to Valencia to take Caicedo place.
The wingers Montero and Ibarra are the most important part of Ecuador’s attack since Quinteros’ team attacks mostly from the wide regions. Plus, they maintain pressure on the wingbacks of the opposition, a case is shown in the picture attached above. As you can observe, this upward movement of the wingers has created a 4 vs. 4 situation in the back which has forced Javier Mascherano to drop. This in turn has resulted in numerical equality in the midfield zone (however Argentina’s left winger dropped to midfield, which reduced the pressure on the Ecuador’s defence). Also, a huge gap has been created in front of Argentina’s defence due to the absence of the holding midfielder Mascherano. This space can be exploited by the Ecuadorian strikers.
Although both Noboa and Lastra are not technically very brilliant, they do just well to feed the players on the wings as the attack builds up. An attacking situation is explained here:
Ibarra, Noboa and Parades played the ball in the right wing and attracted Argentina’s four players towards them to create congestion. A couple of quick passes and a cross into the box by Ibarra left Argentina’s defence in shambles due to the absence of sufficient players in the box. Also, note that Argentina’s back line has been stretched and midfield has been left exposed.
A similar situation is presented below.
The execution may be different, but the intention of the team is to stretch the opposition and create gaps in between the defenders and in the midfield. Here, after the first pass Mena makes a run into the box and is followed by Roncoglia which leaves a gap in the left wing. Ayovi plays the ball to Noboa, who then gives the ball back to Ayovi in a position from where a clear cut cross can be made. Mascherano is out of position and the right back (Roncoglia) is confused due this. Ecuador’s only goal of the game was created from such a situation. It is an efficient method to disorient the opposition.
Ecuador made 37 crosses in two friendlies played earlier this year. As far as their attack is concerned, the picture is quite clear – counter attacking, and build up to the attacks through the wings. Two quick forwards at his disposal allows Quinteros the room to use long balls also.
This should be the region of concern for the team. When Ecuador counter attacks, it does so through the wings most of the times. On observing the two pictures attached above, we can see that the two central defenders are left alone and the lone central midfielder (Lastra in both the cases) is in the free space in the midfield. Noboa, and the two wingbacks (Ayovi and Parades) are out of their usual positions and when the ball is lost, getting back to the normal position and organizing to the required defensive shape will not be possible. This leaves Ecuador exposed to counter-counter attacks.
The two wingers don’t always drop deep while defending. This means the region left uncovered needs to be filled by the central midfielders or one of the two central defenders by stepping forward. Whatever is the case, a hole will be left open for one of the opposition forwards to drop into.
During the attacking phase, in order to open spaces in the opposition half, Ecuador wingers switch the play. When the attack is carried on the left-wing, the winger and the wingback is supported by one of the central midfielders (Noboa here). The other midfielder (Lastra here) is searching for the free space. When the ball is suddenly switched to the other flank, chances of leaving the midfield exposed arrises. In the picture, the blue region is where the ball lands, Suppose it gets intercepted just before it lands or if the opposition player collects the rebound, then Lastra is at risk of being out-numbered (red region). So are the two central defenders.
However good Emelec might have been in the last two seasons, Quinteros will find it tough to mirror the success he had at Emelec with the national team. Nonetheless, his tactics need to be appreciated. He has developed a system which suits his players. If he can find a plan to deal with the defensive frailties, one can expect Ecuador to at least thwart one of the two favorites (Chile and Mexcio) of the group.
Refer to these two videos made by Felipe Araya to get a clear picture of Ecuador under Gustavo Quinteros: