Paraguay 0-0 Ecuador
Estadio Brigadier General Estanislao Lopez, July 3rd – Group B
The game had looked the least appetising of the opening four matches, but ended up being the most entertaining of the Copa America so far.
Both sides set up in 4-4-2 formations and sat, although Paraguay did hassle Ecuador man for man and would occasionally press in groups. They only really differed up front: Paraguay had two big men in Roque Santa Cruz and Lucas Barrios, the former dropping deeper when defending and helping build-up play while the latter lead the line, whereas Ecuador had Cristian Benitez buzzing around the bullish Felipe Caicedo, either looking to play in the hole behind him or moving over to the left flank.
Despite both teams fielding quite tall frontlines, neither side looked to cross the ball much, instead pulling it back towards the edge of the area whenever they got wide. Paraguay started to cross more in the second half and had several decent chances as a result, but Ecuador still didn’t bother. It wasn’t a guaranteed strength for them – Caicedo is only 6ft 1 after all – but when neither of Paraguay’s centre-backs manage 6 ft, it would seem a weakness for them.
In Ecuador’s midfield, Segundo Castillo was given more license to get forward, however this was scuppered somewhat by Cristian Noboa’s lack of positional sense. Paraguay’s players were finding it easy to drift unnoticed in behind him, so, after around 20 minutes, Castillo began to push forward less and instead stayed back to clean up Noboa’s mess. Edison Mendez also played deeper than Antonio Valencia, helping Noboa out more, but this may simply be because Valencia is a more dangerous player and therefore Ecuador wanted him higher up the pitch with less defensive worries.
For Paraguay, Edgar Barreto was doing really well early on. He’s a very clever player – finding space expertly and manage to stay just out of range of Walter Ayovi, meaning he was often the one the ball was being pulled back to on the edge of the box. It’s a shame he had to be removed because of injury, but his replacement Enrique Vera was quite interesting too, looking tenacious defensively and energetic going forward, while Marcelo Estigarribia was also good on the other flank.
An injury to Valencia meant he was replaced by Michael Arroyo at half-time, with Mendez moving to his more natural right side, although he mainly looked to come inside anyway, helping move the ball through Paraguay’s midfield two. Arroya generally looked more dangerous than Valencia, causing problems running at players, while the Manchester United man hadn’t seen much of the ball.
The lack of goals, and substantial points in this article, would suggest it was a dull game when it was actually just a good, open game with quite simple set-ups. It’s a result that probably won’t satisfy either side, but was a fair result for an even game.