In this evening’s Copa America game, Paraguay take on Ecuador at 6:30 PM local time (5:30 US/Eastern) in Santa Fe. After Brazil, Argentina and surprise World Cup semifinalists Uruguay, Paraguay are one of the strongest teams in the tournament.
This June, I saw Ecuador live, as they battled 2004 European Champions Greece to an entertaining 1-1 draw at Citifield in Queens. They are a solid side, a little shaky at the back but dangerous going forward. Their squad is largely drawn from the Ecuadorean league (the entire LDU Quito defense made the team, including the goalie!).
Their biggest threat will be winger Luis Antonio Valencia of Manchester United, who is coming off an excellent season. His speed and crossing ability will sorely test Paraguay’s back-line. Club America (MEX) striker Christian Benitez will do his best to finish off whatever Valencia can create. He has scored 16 goals in 38 appearances for Ecuador. Promising youngster Felipe Caicedo is another dangerous attacker.
Paraguay also have a great deal of attacking potential. Strikers Nelson Haedo Valdez, Roque Santa Cruz and the naturalized Argentinean Lucas Barrios all have significant experience at the highest level in Europe. Paraguay are an experienced team, having qualified for the last four consecutive World Cups. In South Africa, they lost to eventual champions Spain 1-0 in the quarterfinal, despite several chances to score, including a missed penalty. They stifled the usually irrepressible Spanish for good portions of the game, parking the bus in front of goal and looking dangerous on the counter.
Paraguay should be more adventurous against a less dangerous Ecuador side.
This should be a fun game to watch, given the attacking potential of both teams. Let’s hope they throw caution to the wind, never an easy task for nervous coaches in big tournaments like the Copa.
Prediction: Paraguay 2 – Ecuador 1