Argentina commence their knockout campaign of the 2021 Copa America against Ecuador in the quarter-finals.
Lionel Scaloni’s side booked their place in the last eight after topping Group A with ease. They followed a draw against Chile in their opening fixture with three straight victories against Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia to seal top spot, with Lionel Messi notching three goals and two assists.
Ecuador scraped through to the quarter-finals, finishing fourth – out of only five teams – in Group B. After losing their first game to Colombia, they registered two consecutive 2-2 draws against Venezuela and Peru before picking up a crucial and impressive point against Brazil. That draw put them on three points and just about took them through to the knockout stage – although, facing Argentina, the odds are heavily against them.
Here’s 90min’s preview of the clash.
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When is kick off? Sunday 4 July – 02:00 (BST)/Saturday 3 July – 22:00 (EST)
Where is it being played? Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico Teixeira, Goiania
What TV channel is it on? BBC Red Button, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website (UK), fuboTV (US)
Who’s the referee? Wilton Sampaio
There are no new injury concerns for Scaloni, which means the lineup should look familiar to what we’ve seen over the tournament so far.
Messi will obviously lead the side, with Lautaro Martinez and Alejandro Gomez likely to complete the supporting cast to Sergio Aguero.
Tottenham’s Giovani Lo Celso and Paris Saint-Germain’s Leandro Paredes should return to central midfield, while the experience of Nicolas Otamendi may be called upon for this quarter-final clash.
Gustavo Alfaro also has a fully fit squad to call on for this tie.
Enner Valencia, who has hit 31 goals in 60 caps, should continue to lead the side up front despite still awaiting his first strike of the tournament.
Ayrton Preciado has represented Ecuador’s biggest goal threat throughout this summer’s Copa America, having scored two of his side’s five goals throughout.
Argentina: E Martinez; Molina, L. Martinez, Otamendi, Acuna; Lo Celso, Paredes; Gomez, Messi, Martinez; Aguero
Ecuador: Galindez; Angelo Preciado, Hincapie, Arboleda, Estupinan; Franco, Mendez, Caicedo, Palacios; Ayrton Preciado, Valencia
Argentina have beaten Ecuador in 21 of their 36 meetings, drawing 10 times and only losing five times.
Ecuador’s last win against the Albiceleste came in 2015, when they won 2-0 on Argentine soil in a World Cup qualifier.
The two sides will battle it out to join Brazil (who beat Chile 1-0) and Peru (who beat Paraguay 4-3 on penalties) for a spot in the last four of the Copa America.
And looking ahead, there’s no other option than to expect a win from Argentina. Ecuador clearly have the capacity to give big sides a run for their money – a 1-1 draw against Brazil is proof enough. But coming up against an on-song Argentina side in the knockout stages of the 2021 Copa America will surely be too much to ask – especially considering their group stage form.
With the creativity and attacking threat that Argentina possess, it’s hard to see another match up without plenty of goals and a win for the landslide favourites.
Prediction: Argentina 4-1 Ecuador