Thursday 16 May 2019, 15:19

Celico: Ecuador must capitalise on being feared

  • Ecuador enter Poland 2019 as champions of South America

  • Head coach Jorge Celico says his side must leverage their status

  • Celico: "The goal is to bring back the trophy"

Ecuador have travelled to Poland with even greater optimism than usual: For the first time in four appearances, they arrive at a FIFA U-20 World Cup as reigning South American champions.

In the opinion of the team’s Argentinian coach, Jorge Celico, this is not just a minor detail. “We have to take advantage of the respect that winning such a title generates,” the 57-year-old, in charge of the team since 2017, told “I’ve been on the other side, and while I never instilled fear in my players, the respect was definitely real.”

Ecuador head coach Jose Celico gives intructions to his players during U-20 South American Championship 

However, La Mini-Tri’s victory at the 2019 South American U-20 Championship, which featured Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, is only part of the challenge, according to Celico, who also oversees the other youth teams that fall under the auspices of the Ecuadorian Football Federation (FEF).

“When you get out on to the pitch, you have to confirm that status, match by match,” he said. “Because, on top of that, achievements in football are fleeting. If you don’t understand that, you’re in trouble.”

Celico, who took the reins of the senior Ecuador side on a temporary basis during the closing stages of their 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying campaign, has no fears about the continental triumph going straight to the heads of his U-20 charges.

“The squad is quite mature – their self-esteem has increased quite a bit, but they’ve still managed to keep their feet on the ground. They know that the driving force for achieving important things is humility and dedication.”

Ecuador's Jose Cifuentes (C) celebrates after scoring against Argentina 

The foundations of champions

Celico is clear about the merits of his side: "It is an aggressive team, of good standing, that tries to attack. The tactics must maximize these virtues." asked the Argentinian about some of the key players from their qualification campaign.

Moises Ramirez (goalkeeper, Real Sociedad in Spain)

  • The stat: He kept five clean sheets in nine appearances at the South American U-20 Championship, going unbeaten in Ecuador’s last 298 minutes of action.

“He may become of one the greatest in Ecuador’s history. His physical capability, agility, reflexes and attitude are very advanced for someone who is only 18 years old. He has no fear.”

Jackson Porozo (centre-back, Santos in Brazil)

  • The stat: He was the player with the most interceptions at the South American U-20 Championship, won 69 per cent of his challenges (40/58) and was the Ecuadorian with the most clearances (49).

"He is impressive in the air, fast, and very difficult to beat in one-on-one situations. He has a good level of aggression. At 18, he has managed to take on everything.”

Jose Cifuentes (midfielder, America de Quito in Ecuador)

  • The stat: He started all nine of Ecuador’s matches in the continental finals, playing 799 of a possible 810 minutes. In addition, he scored one goal and captained the team twice.

“He’s versatile. He’s basically an attacking midfielder who plays in the middle of the park. He’s equally as impressive at winning the ball back as he is setting up team-mates for a goal.”

Leonardo Campana (forward, Barcelona in Ecuador)

  • The stat: He finished as the leading marksman at the South American U-20 Championship with six goals. Of his 18 shots on goal, ten ended up on target.

“He’s a different kind of forward. With his technique and ball handling, he could play as an attacking midfielder or on the wing. He possesses the ability to adapt to any kind of game. Talented players like him can conceal their usual position well.”

Group and aims

OpponentDateVenueKick-off time (local)
JapanThursday, 23 MayBydgoszcz20:30
ItalySunday, 26 MayBydgoszcz18:00
MexicoWednesday, 29 MayGdyinia18:00

“All three nations have very different identities, be it on the football pitch or in terms of their culture. I can’t say if one will be more difficult to face than another, as that would be disrespectful,” said the Argentinian, referring to Ecuador’s Group B opponents: Italy, Japan and Mexico. “I’d like to see the teams we play be forced to adapt to our style. Of course, we might have to change little things here and there, but we can do that without losing sight of that key concept.

“The goal is to bring back the trophy. In this line of work, everything has a cost, and it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t dream about going all the way, given the opportunity that we have. It’ll be difficult because the level will be high, but we can also play to a good standard. We’re the South American champions after all, and that’s a title we must live up to.”