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Jun 29, 2024 8:50 pm

Mexico ‘calm’ going into critical match vs. Ecuador

Orbelin Pineda

A spot in the Copa America quarterfinals will be on the line when Mexico faces Ecuador in both sides’ Group B finale on Sunday night in Glendale, Ariz.

Ecuador (1-0-1, 3 points) needs only a draw because of its superior goal differential, while Mexico (1-0-1, 3 points) needs a victory to seal progress to the second round.

Both teams were favorites to progress from the group coming into the tournament, but there’s only room for one after each lost to Venezuela.

The Vinotinto got some good breaks in both victories — with Ecuador’s Enner Valencia getting sent off early in a game that finished 2-1, and Mexico’s Orbelin Pineda missing a potential game-tying penalty in a match that ended 1-0.

Mexico also has had to absorb crucial injuries. Midfielder Edson Alvarez’s tournament is over after the team captain left early with a hamstring injury in a 1-0 opening win over Jamaica. And defender Cesar Montes departed at halftime with a groin issue in the Venezuela loss, though it’s less clear if and when he could return.

Amid growing pressure over his job while playing in stadiums full primarily of Mexican fans, El Tri manager Jaime Lozano insists his team is capable of conquering the adversity they’ve faced so far.

“I am calm about it,” Lozano said Friday through an interpreter. “The circumstances before weren’t expected ones, but I really trust the condition of the team, the performance of the team. They are very strong on the inside, and it’s apparent from the performances that we saw in the matches regardless of the results.”

Mexico is 4-1-1 in six all-time competitive fixtures against Ecuador — five in previous Copa Americas and one in the 2002 World Cup won 2-1 by Mexico — but there’s a feeling this is one of the tropical nation’s strongest generations.

The 34-year-old Valencia is Ecuador’s all-time international scoring leader, and is in line to return for his first action since his dismissal for his violent challenge on Venezuela’s Jose Martinez.

Chelsea’s Moises Caicedo leads a well-stocked midfield that also includes 17-year-old Kendry Paez. The latter converted a penalty on Ecuador’s 3-1 win over Jamaica on Matchday 2 on Wednesday, and is set to join Caicedo at Chelsea next July.

“It’s a strong and young team in every line, every position,” Lozano said of Ecuador. “They are a very complete team. They know what they are playing and they are savvy.”

–Field Level Media

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