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Ecuador was the surprise on the first day of the South American qualifying, winning in Buenos Aires against the Argentine national team, which played without L. Messi but with a very strong squad, against a modest Ecuadorian national team. Ecuador scored a historic victory by a 2 -0 margin, to mark the first occasion in 22 years that Argentina lost in Buenos Aires.

Line Ups

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Argentina (4-3-3/3-3-3-1): 1. Romero// 3. Roncaglia, 2. Garay, 17. Otamendi, 8. Mas // 14. Mascherano, 6. Biglia, 21. Pastore // 20. Correa, 7. Di Maria, 10. Agüero.

Ecuador (4-4-2/5-3-2): 22. Dominguez // 4. Paredes, 21. Achilier, 3. Erazo, 10. Ayovi // 16. Valencia, 6. Noboa, 15. Quiñonez, 7. Montero // 8. Caicedo, 23. Bolaños.

Argentina 0 – 2 Ecuador

Argentina used a 4-3-3 system, with Mascherano controlling the center of the field, and Pastore as the playmaker, and Agüero as the central striker. All this changed in the 20th minute when Agüero left the field injured, and Carlos Tevez entered in his place, occupying the same position. The idea was to play a game where Argentina had control of the ball, and changed the rhythm with the speed of Mas and Di Maria, with Biglia joining the attack from the midfield. In defence, the backline featured 4 at the back.

For their part, Ecuador played the classic 4-4-2 system, with quick widemen like Ayovi and Paredes joining the attack depending on the area. Quiñonez controlled the midfield and Valencia with his speed added to the forwards. In defense, they fielded  4 with Achilier and Erazo as a block, and the wingbacks joining them when they weren’t attacking.

Formations in the second half.

Formations in the second half.

In the second half there were changes, Argentina pushed their full backs higher up the pitch, and made Mascherano a sweeper with Biglia as a central midfielder. Argentina basically switched to a 3-3-4 system, a more offensive gameplan with Lavezzi on the field for Pastore, trying to get more speed and change of rhythm to the attack.

Ecuador stepped up their defence by moving to a system with five defenders, putting Valencia on the right side as a wingbackl, ending up with two attacking wingbacks.. A 5-3-2 system changed to a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 depending on the circumstances. This did a great job in disabling the offensive power of the Argentina set up.

Ecuador Pressing

Argentina could never develop a passing rhythm and did not know what to do to break the good Ecuadorian defense, which began with the pressure exerted by the forwards during the first phase of the Argentine build up. Pressing with 3 men against the Argentine defenders, who tried to build up, Ecuador was pressing in the Argentine third of the field with two strikers and a midfielder, hampering the Argentine build up, because of which Martino´s team had to skip a phase and build up in midfield.

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Here we see the pressure, with 3 strikers covering all the passing options to nullify the Argentine build up. So the home team had to pass long to avoid opposing players, and this complicated the whole game for the Argentine team.

The surprises

In the absence of Messi just a few touches of Javier Pastore were supposed to unite the lines, or the runs of Di Maria, who grew into an isolated figure as the match wore on and was deflating with the passing of the minutes.

The Argentine wings were badly disconnected. Facundo Roncaglia could never come face to face with Jefferson Montero and Emmanuel Mas did a bad job of marking Antonio Valencia, and he was not played as he usually is at San Lorenzo. Angel Correa, who could provide the necessary change rhythm, moved around the front of attack without any clear direction and so the team could not organize a coherent attacking move.

The match was quite even, when a header from Erazo who was unmarked at a corner scored the goal that surprised everyone.

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It looks like Ecuador has numerical superiority in the box to distract the Argentine defense, easily scoring the 1-0.

A few minutes later came the 2-0, a perfect counterattack that misplaced the Argentina defense and where we saw the lack of speed of the Argentine defenders.

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We see how the two defenders cannot reach the opponent and this leads to Caicedo scoring the goal.

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We see serious defensive flaws in the Argentine team and these are exploited by Ecuador. It was on the backs of Mas and Roncaglia that the visitors generated their strongest attacks.

Argentina changed their defence going from 4 men to defend with 3 and the wingbacks went into midfield, which was an attempt to advance men up the field to strengthen an attack that did not prosper without Messi. Nobody took the lead in the Argentine attack.

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As you can see, there are 3 defenders trying to build up play, and players with red circles around them are attempting to reach spaces to receive passes, Ecuador continues with pressing in this case with two men and two midfielders covering the possible escape routes for the Argentine team. With Mascherano as sweeper and Lucas Biglia as central midfielder, Ecuador will take advantage of the disorganization of this defensive scheme to win the ball ahead of the wing backs.

The Yellow wall

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Here we see the positioning of the Ecuadorian team defense. Here we see the wide men go back to form a line of 5 men, while one central defender (Achilier) has gone deeper as a partial sweeper. While three men are in midfield controlling their areas and two strikers are pressing.

The Argentine team has no way of creating chances and ended the play with a long pass. No way to break the defence was found, not only because of the good work of the Ecuador players, but also because the Argentine attack lacked mobility and creativity.

Argentine Problems

In conclusion we say that Argentina will need some variety in attack, especially to cover for the absence of Messi and Agüero. They must strengthen the offense, where they need more speed, rhythm and new ideas. It was a team devoid of ideas. Ecuador’s achievement was to beat a completely disorganized Argentine team.

Defensively, Ecuador did a great job, concentrating and organizing well, and managing to control players who were much more skillful than them, and put together a quick, strong offensive that surprised the Argentine defenders. Argentina’s defense is without doubt one of the points of improvement for Martino´s team. The full backs, Roncaglia and Mas were completely out of sync, and struggled to contain the Ecuador wide men.

Ecuador´s pressing had the desired effect, to not allow the build up of play for Argentina. This made the home team very uncomfortable, and forced them to jump phases of play. They were forced to drift from the game plan, and couldn’t execute plans like they thought they might.

In conclusion, great work from Ecuador in two phases of the game got them a deserved victory. Meanwhile, Argentina need to improve on a lot to accomplish their aims. They will face many difficult fixtures, and if they do not improve tactically, finding a place in Russia in 2018 might get complicated.


Written by Nicolas Pernigotti

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Nicolas Pernigotti

Nicolas Pernigotti

Nicolas is Argentine, a chess player, student of philosophy and aspiring football coach. He is an enthusiastic follower of world football, lover of football tactics and strategy, and a faithful fan of Borussia Dortmund and Bundesliga. He also writes for Ligasmaster.wordpress.com and 6cero.com/u/Nicobundesliga
Nicolas Pernigotti

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