World Soccer - - Road to russia - Tim Vick­ery

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

Go­ing...Gus­tavo Quinteros

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