QUINTEROS PAYS THE PRICE
Ecuador acrimoniously replaced coach Gustavo Quinteros after losing to Brazil and Peru in September’s qualifiers. Quinteros had come under pressure to resign following those defeats but he would not budge, so the FA took to Twitter to announce that, in the light of his “indifference” when “appeals were made to his sensitivity”, Quinteros was no longer in charge of the national team. Another Argentinian, Jorge Celico, who had recently been appointed the country’s youth supremo, was put in charge for the final two qualifiers.
There are, however, financial implications to Quinteros’ removal. By the terms of his contract, a sacking would bring him a pay-off of a reported $500,000, so it appears that, as a cheaper option, he might be kept on the payroll until his contract runs out at the end of the year.
Although Ecuador were early leaders of the South American qualification table, having won all four of their opening fixtures, their recent decline under Quinteros had been alarming, with the next 12 games bringing just two more wins, a pair of draws and eight defeats.
While oscillations are inevitable in a marathon campaign that is played over the course of three seasons, this is especially true of a country like Ecuador, which has a limited pool of talent to call upon. The big fear for a coach of such a team is that too many key players lose form and fitness at the same time.
This was true for Quinteros with regard to the centre-back positions, where Ecuador have little strength in depth. With the retirement of Ivan Hurtado, who held the defence together for so long, Quinteros sought to bring the defensive line higher, thereby making the team more compact. But then he lost another centre-back, Fricson Erazo, who featured in the first six games before running into prolonged injury problems.
It was a similar story in attack. Leftwinger Jefferson Montero was in fine form at the start of the campaign. But, bar a five-minute substitute appearance in March, he only played in the first eight games before he too was injured.
Another big loss has been Miller Bolanos. Used as a support striker, playing off the centre- forward in a 4-2-3-1 set-up and floating between the front and the midfield lines, he played in those first four wins, but then struggled after moving to Gremio in Brazil, with both form and fitness being a problem.
In Bolanos’ absence there has been a tendency to play Felipe Caicedo and Enner Valencia together – and, apart from Valencia’s loss of form and confidence while he was playing his club football in England, having both in the same starting XI tended to leave the team top heavy.
That, however, is not a problem that new boss Celico will have to deal with. In protest at the replacement of Quinteros, Caicedo, who had been Ecuador’s top scorer in this campaign with seven goals, announced his retirement from international football.
In protest at the replacement of Quinteros, Felipe Caicedo announced his retirement from international football