Ecuador v Japan – Mineirão at 00:00 GMT +1 live at Premier Sports

Ecuador have a wretched recent history in the Copa America. La Tricolor have only twice progressed past the group-stage since 1993 and after being hammered by Uruguay in their 2019 opener, the task ahead for Hernan Dario Gomez’s group looked a tall order.

Before facing Chile in their second round group game, Ecuador had failed to win a competitive match outside of their homeland since November 2015. And there was already plenty of evidence to suggest the Pacific coast country could struggle might struggle to make their mark this summer.

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La Tri’s head coach Gomez returned to the post last autumn and immediately dismissed the Copa as an inconvenience, suggesting he shall be treating the competition as a glorified training exercise in Brazil as part of full preparation for next year’s World Cup qualifiers.

The straight-talking Colombian said, “We are not going to be ready for the Copa America. I’ll still be lacking plenty of knowledge about a lot of things. This will be the time I can spend with the players, the space where we can start forming a team for the qualifiers”.

Gomez an unpopular boss

Already an unpopular choice as boss, Gomez has a history of treating the tournament with disdain and has fired out warnings to the federation about a perceived lack of unity behind the scenes. Whilst Ecuador are producing an U20 squad that claimed continental glory recently, few starlets are making their way into contention for the seniors.

Fans have already grown frustrated by Gomez’s lack of urgency to blood a squad and first XI capable of competing. The former Panama boss is renowned for his simplified, and often defensive, system with a preference for direct football, although his lack of quality options could make the going tough for La Tricolor.

Japan can upset the odds

Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu elected to field an inexperienced squad for the Copa in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Bizarrely, he made up most of his pre-tournament friendless with players not selected for this summer’s event and so his roster arrived with only six capped players and 18 players aged 22 or under.

The Blue Samurai’s 4-0 defeat to Chile in their Group C opener was therefore our first major glimpse of this group together as eight players made debuts against La Roja overall. However, two late goals against Chile gave the final score a deceptive appearance with Japan spurning four solid opportunities – most of which fell to Ayase Ueda.

There were positive signs for Moriyasu. His team were only out-shot 15-12 (10-9 via shots in the box) whilst Real Madrid bound starlet Takefusa Kubo didn’t look out of place with a number of noticeable contributions. Shoya Nakajima also stood out in possession and the pair of playmakers will be key if the Blue Samurai are to make their mark against Ecuador.

Japan’s inexperience makes the Asian nation understandable underdogs on Monday night but quotes of 1.80 on the Blue Samurai with a +1 Asian Handicap start appear unfair on the evidence proposed from both camps. Moriyasu’s men are well capable of hurting Ecuador and can escape without suffering a heavy defeat.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Japan +1.00 at 1.800

Preview by: @MarkOHaire.

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