Argentina v Ecuador: Otamendi tells defence to build platform for Messi and Co

By Sports Desk July 02, 2021

Argentina are determined to avoid allowing Ecuador any sweet 16 celebrations after Saturday's quarter-final, having never lost in 15 previous Copa America clashes with La Tri.

Experienced defender Nicolas Otamendi said Argentina would look to provide a platform for their attacking stars, who include the likes of Lionel Messi and Lautaro Martinez, by keeping it tight at the back against the Ecuadorians.

While Argentina topped their group, achieving three wins and a draw from four games, Ecuador scraped through with three draws and a defeat from the pool containing Brazil.

It was a 1-1 draw with an under-strength Brazil in Goiania on Sunday that carried Ecuador into the knockout rounds, and it would be a monumental shock if they beat Argentina.

However, the last-eight clash is also being played in Goiania, at the Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico where Ecuador tamed the Selecao.

Otamendi, the former Manchester City star who now plays club football for Benfica, said: "Defensive solidity gives you a better attack. With the attacking potential we have, it's important to give them security so they can attack calmly.

"We have to try to have defensive order to take advantage of the potential we have from midfield forward."

Otamendi added: "This shirt demands commitment and winning tournaments. You always want to make a mark with your country. We will try to do our best to progress."

Argentina last won the Copa America in 1993 and head coach Lionel Scaloni told a news conference that playmaker Giovani Lo Celso would start Saturday's game.

"Ecuador are rivals of maximum difficulty," Scaloni added. "We must respect them and go out into the field with total humility. It will be a very difficult match."

Ecuador midfielder Jhegson Mendez was outstanding against Brazil, with team highs for possession gained (10 times) and interceptions (3), while finding his man with 48 of 50 passes for a 96 per cent success rate.

It will take something similar to attempt to stifle Argentina, and Mendez said on Friday: "Every game is different, each team has its own approach. We have ours and we will try in midfield to control as much of the game as possible to give ourselves more chances and be 100 per cent concentrated to minimise errors."

 


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina – Lionel Messi

Amid seemingly endless hoopla over when or whether he will sign a new Barcelona contract, Messi is attempting to stay focused on delivering a major trophy for his country. He won an Olympic gold medal with Argentina in 2008 but that feels like a meagre return for his contribution to La Albiceleste. Messi took his tallies to 75 goals and 148 appearances when he struck twice in the group finale against Bolivia. It is beyond obvious that he is the man Ecuador will fear the most.

Ecuador – Jhegson Mendez

Enner Valencia and Angel Mena were excellent going forward against Brazil, but Ecuador's hopes for their clash with a full-strength Argentina are likely to hinge on how they manage the game. If Mendez and his midfield colleagues can show discipline, keep their shape and protect their defence, they will have done exceedingly well. But that will be imperative if they are to somehow pull off a victory.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- Argentina have never lost against Ecuador at the Copa America in 15 games (W10 D5). The Argentinians have scored in 13 of those 15 games. However, this will be the first meeting between the teams in the knockout stage of the competition.

- Argentina have kept three cleen sheets in their last five games against Ecuador in the Copa America (W3 D2). In this period, Argentina have scored 12 goals and only conceded two.

- Ecuador have lost just one of their last five games in the Copa America, including a draw with guest team Japan at the 2019 tournament. However, they are winless in these five matches, with four draws and a defeat.

- Argentina were the only team to score a direct free-kick in the 2021 Copa America group stage. Messi scored this goal against Chile at the start of the competition.

- Messi was the player with the most dribbles completed (22) in the group stage.

Related items

  • Harden records 66th career triple-double as Nets beat Spurs to top east, LeBron leads Lakers rally Harden records 66th career triple-double as Nets beat Spurs to top east, LeBron leads Lakers rally

    James Harden and Dejounte Murray both had triple-doubles as the Brooklyn Nets got past the San Antonio Spurs 117-102 on Friday.

    Harden scored 37 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists with Kevin Durant out with a sprained left MCL as the Nets rallied from a 51-50 half-time deficit to improve to 29-16.

    Kyrie Irving contributed 24 points with three rebounds and four assists for the Nets, who are top of the Eastern Conference.

    Harden's triple-double was the 66th of his career, moving him to eighth on the all-time list, while Murray – who had 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists – recorded his ninth triple-double of the season and 13th of his career.

     

    LeBron leads Lakers past Magic

    LeBron James led the Los Angeles Lakers' second-half response as they fought back from an eight-point half-time deficit to win 116-105 over the Orlando Magic. James finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists, playing the second half at center, while Russell Westbrook contributed 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

    The Milwaukee Bucks edged the Chicago Bulls 94-90 in an important game in the Eastern Conference standings. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points with 12 rebounds and three assists as the Bucks overcame Grayson Allen's ejection.

    Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic recorded another triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists but Ja Morant overshadowed him with 38 points as the Memphis Grizzlies won 122-118 over the Denver Nuggets, while Stephen Curry had 22 points including a game-winning buzzer beater in the Golden State Warriors' 105-103 win over the Houston Rockets.

     

    Sixers fluff 24-point lead

    The Philadelphia 76ers blew a 24-point lead to lose 102-101 to the Los Angeles Clippers despite Joel Embiid scoring 40 points with 13 rebounds. Reggie Jackson finishing with 19 points and nine assists for the Clippers.

  • Lakers coach Vogel: LeBron is 'the most unique player in the history of the game' Lakers coach Vogel: LeBron is 'the most unique player in the history of the game'

    LeBron James has been hailed by Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel as "the most unique player in the history of the game" after his second-half performance at center on Friday.

    James finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists after playing exclusively at center in the second half of Friday's 116-105 win over the Orlando Magic.

    The four-time MVP was moved into Dwight Howard's role after half-time with the Lakers immediately going on a decisive 20-2 to overcome their 62-54 deficit.

    "He's the most unique player in the history of the game," Vogel told reporters about James.

    "We won a championship with him playing point guard two years ago, he's been a ball-handling wing throughout his career and he's been playing center for us.

    "It's pretty remarkable, and for him to be doing it at this stage of his career, it's even more remarkable."

    Vogel also praised Russell Westbrook who was benched in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

    Westbrook, who joined the Lakers from the Washington Wizards in the off-season, has been the subject of much criticism this season.

    The 33-year-old Lakers point guard had 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists against the Magic.

    “He’s all-in on doing whatever is necessary to get the Lakers in position to win a championship, for sure," Vogel said.

    Westbrook added: “I was upset about [being benched on Wednesday] and I was more upset that we didn’t win the game.

    "I’ve been here doing my job since day one and doing everything asked of me. I want to continue to do that for the betterment of the team."

    Vogel also added that there was no firm timeframe on All-Star forward Anthony Davis' return from a knee injury.

    James has scored 25 or more points in 16 consecutive games, which have all coincided with Davis' stint on the sidelines.

  • Simeone confirms Suarez will play against Valencia Simeone confirms Suarez will play against Valencia

    Diego Simeone has confirmed that Luis Suarez will play for Atletico Madrid against Valencia on Saturday, despite a lack of form and apparent recent falling out between the pair.

    The Uruguay international is Los Rojiblancos' top scorer in all competitions this season with nine goals, but has only found the net once in his last 11 club matches.

    Suarez made his frustration known when he was substituted during last month's 2-1 defeat at Sevilla, appearing to direct expletives towards his manager.

    The 34-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with a Premier League reunion with former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, but Simeone insisted at a news conference ahead of the weekend's clash at the Wanda Metropolitano that he has spoken to Suarez and intends to play him.

    Atletico have been on a poor run of late, winning just one of their last six LaLiga games and being eliminated from both the Supercopa de Espana and Copa del Rey in their last two outings.

    "Luis Suarez will play," the Argentine coach confirmed. "I have no doubt that these moments make us stronger, because we have been in difficult moments and very good ones during my ten years at the club [as a coach].

    "This moment is something we've never experienced before and it is like life itself, we need to defend ourselves continuously. What you did yesterday doesn't count, it counts what you do today and I love it like this because this is what happens in life itself.

    "I've already talked to Luis and with the club. With all the people I've needed to, we've talked already. They know what I think, and I'm [currently] thinking about the match against Valencia.”

     

    Suarez has scored 30 goals across all competitions since his arrival at Atletico from Barcelona in September 2020. Karim Benzema (54) and Gerard Moreno (41) are the only players currently based in Spain to have scored more often during that time.

    Additionally, only Lionel Messi (231) has more than Suarez's 175 LaLiga goals since the Uruguayan joined Barcelona from Liverpool in July 2014.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.