SOUTH AMERICAN football fanatic Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) runs the rule over the Copa America showdown between Group C sides Japan and Ecuador.
Ecuador v Japan | Tuesday 25th June 2019, 00:00 | 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, and edged out by Chile, Hernan Dario Gomez’s group are on the cusp of another early exit.
Their latest demise shouldn’t come as too much as a surprise. Ecuador have 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 would struggle to make their mark this summer.
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”.
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 grown increasingly 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 makes progress a tall order.
Japan upsetting 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.
So the Blue Samurai’s 4-0 defeat to Chile in their Group C opener was our first major glimpse of this group together as eight players made debuts against La Roja overall. However, two late goals gave the final score a deceptive appearance with Japan spurning five solid goalscoring opportunities.
There were positive signs for Moriyasu with Real Madrid bound starlet Takefusa Kubo eye-catching and Shoya Nakajima also standing out in possession. The pair linked up impressively for the Blue Samurai again in their next outing, an outstanding 2-2 draw against a devilishly difficult Uruguay outfit.
Underdogs command respect
The Asian outfit twice took the lead, and appeared unfortunate to concede a penalty given by the referee after consulting video evidence. Though they were hanging on grimly at the end, Japan were well worth their surprise point and the underdogs therefore command maximum respect ahead of Monday night.
The money has come for Moriyasu’s men with the +1 Asian Handicap long gone and the underdogs backed in from 6/1 shouts to just 21/10. There’s still merit in supporting Japan, although it’s begrudgingly so, in the knowledge that we’ve missed all the early value.
Frustratingly, the cards market hasn’t yet been formed. The referee hasn’t a huge amount of experience outside of his native Venezuela but Ecuador tend to be feisty operators, whilst Japan’s youngsters have been brandished with two yellows in each of their opening encounters.
Nevertheless, I’ve settled on a relatively straightforward BetBuilder for now – Japan double chance and Over 1 Goal. All four fixtures in Group C have beaten the Over 2.5 Goals line as these two teams have collectively leaked 12 goals thus far. Holding off until Monday will allow you to enhance the odds from 11/10 (Bet365) by adding cards into the mix, if you so wish.
Ecuador v Japan – Japan double chance and Over 1 Goal (11/10 Bet365)