SOUTH AMERICAN football fanatic Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) highlights the value from Thursday night’s crucial World Cup qualifier in Quito.
Ecuador v Chile | Thursday 22.00
Ecuador were runaway leaders of South American’s marathon World Cup qualification campaign, winning their first four fixtures including which included a 2-0 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires and a home triumph over Uruguay.
However, La Tricolor have faded badly in their following four outings. A scrambled draw with a stoppage-time equaliser that probably should have been disallowed for offside against Paraguay was followed by three consecutive defeats against Colombia, Brazil and Peru.
From table-toppers, Gustavo Quinteros’ team are now down in fifth – the play-off position – ahead of a crucial contest against Chile in Quito as the halfway point approaches. With leading players injured and out of form, Ecuador appear vulnerable hosts in the Andean capital.
Left winger Jefferson Montero, the team’s most potent attacking weapon on his day, misses out through injury. Centre forward Enner Valencia looks short of confidence and has had little playing time after swapping West Ham for Everton.
Meanwhile, coach Quinteros believes La Tricolor’s normally impeccable performances in the high altitude conditions at home are starting to work against his squad with many of his players not based abroad.
Ecuador built three successful World Cup qualification bids on results at their Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa base, 2,800 metres up the Andes.
But against Brazil last month the boss saw his side ship three goals at home to the Selecao in the final 20 minutes – exactly the moment in the game when he might have expected his team to take control and the opposition to wilt in the rarefied air.
Now Quinteros under pressure to make changes, and bring in more Quito-based players for the home games to win back that traditional altitude advantage.
La Tricolor have shipped six goals in their past three home qualifiers and are likely to be tested by a Chilean outfit that’s also struggled in their most recent outings on the road to Russia.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s entertaining outfit are seventh after winning just three of their first eight matches but managed to net nine times in four away days.
With Alexis Sanchez spearheading the attack, playmaker Jorge Valdivia recalled and La Roja enjoying the most ball possession and firing in the most shots during the campaign thus far, the visitors certainly do have the tools to trouble Ecuador.
There’s a suggestion the mood in the camp isn’t particularly great with Sanchez and Arturo Vidal battling for leading light but with keeper, captain and record cap holder Claudio Bravo back in the squad, harmony should be restored.
Bravo’s replacement against Paraguay, Christopher Toselli, was at fault during the humbling loss and double Copa America winners Chile were then embarrassed to draw 0-0 at home to Bolivia.
But along with Bravo, La Roja recall centre back Gonzalo Jara from injury and look decent value at 30/29 (188BET) with a +0.25 Asian Handicap start.
However, a goals-based bet is also a worthy avenue here. Chile have kept just one clean sheet in their last seven qualification matches with six successive away encounters featuring at least three goals.
Ecuador have also delivered Over 2.5 Goals in nine of their last 10 meaningful matches as Both Teams To Score banked during seven of those duels. I’ll happily take the 13/15 (188BET) available on both sides scoring.
Ecuador v Chile – Chile +0.25 Asian Handicap (30/29 188BET)
Ecuador v Chile – Both Teams To Score (13/15 188BET)