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Colombia v Ecuador: La Tri crave Copa repeat of crushing qualifying success

La Tri remarkably won 6-1 in Quito in November, the last of three consecutive victories in an encouraging start to Qatar 2022 qualifying following an opening defeat to Argentina.

Led by Gustavo Alfaro, appointed three months prior to that match, Ecuador have waited a long time for a comparable result at the Copa America.

They have not beaten a CONMEBOL opponent at the tournament since 2001, their 4-0 defeat of Venezuela followed by a 13-game winless run in such matches.

Ecuador’s only wins in the intervening period were against CONCACAF pair Mexico and Haiti.

The qualifying setback was particularly shocking for Colombia given their strong record against Ecuador, who they have beaten nine times at the Copa America – including the past seven meetings in a row.

La Tri’s most recent Copa victory over Colombia was a 4-3 triumph in 1964.

Alfaro said: “We know the team that we are going to face – a team that have recovered their self esteem, their form, their intensity and have become one of the best.

“As they have been in the last two World Cups, they are one of the best in South America. We are in a process of wanting to occupy that place.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Colombia – Luis Muriel

Atalanta forward Muriel scored a club goal every 80 minutes this season, the fifth-best rate of any player in Europe’s top five leagues with five or more. He finished with 26 goals and 10 assists in all competitions. Muriel will now be determined to make his mark at the Copa America, too, having appeared in only 19 minutes across two previous editions. He was injured 14 minutes into the 2019 opener.

Ecuador – Angel Mena

Colombia will be well aware of the threat of Mena, who scored one and created two more as he was involved in half of Ecuador’s six goals in Quito. With a knack for taking up dangerous attacking positions, Mena scored 17 goals for Leon in Liga MX in 2020-21 but could have boosted that tally further still with his chances worth 19.2 expected goals.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Colombia have beaten Ecuador in their past seven meetings at the Copa America, keeping clean sheets in five of them. Ecuador scored only two goals across these matches.

– Colombia are unbeaten in normal time in their past five games at the Copa America, keeping clean sheets in each of them (W4 D1). In the previous tournament, they were eliminated without losing a game. Chile beat Colombia in a penalty shoot-out following a goalless draw.

– Colombia have made it through the group stage in 11 of the past 12 editions, although their sole title came at home in 2001.

– This is the second time Reinaldo Rueda has coached Colombia at the tournament. Previously, they finished fourth in Peru in 2004 (W3 D1 L2). Alfaro is coaching a side at the Copa America for the first time.

– The 2016 tournament was the only one of the past eight editions in which Ecuador advanced beyond the group stage.

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