Colombia and Ecuador will play a ‘final’ on their way to the World Cup on Thursday at the Barranquilla Metropolitan Stadium, because that match on matchday 12 of the South American qualifiers is key in the aspirations of both of them to get one of the four direct quotas to Qatar 2022.
The coffee growers arrive motivated to the meeting after having equaled zero with Uruguay in Montevideo and in Barranquilla with Brazil, which until that match had won the nine they had played.
La Tri, for its part, is one of the surprises of the qualifying rounds, but it faces the duel after falling 2-1 in Caracas with Venezuela, a result that was not in its accounts, and it will have to look for points in the Metropolitan Stadium.
Both teams are in the mid-table bottleneck. Colombia ranks fifth with 15 points, while Ecuador is third with 16 units, the same as Uruguay, which is fourth, while Paraguay is sixth with 12 and Peru seventh with 11.
SQUARE RETURNS TO THE COLOMBIAN ONCENO
The main novelty for the hosts will be the return of winger Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, who missed the match against Brazil due to the accumulation of yellow cards.
“We must try to enforce our home and get the three points. I think it is a final; we are motivated, thinking it is a final, and so I think we are going to face the game,” said the Juventus footballer.
In addition to the return of Cuadrado, who can play for the creative Juan Fernando Quintero, the return to the starting eleven of Matheus Uribe is expected, who was a substitute against Brazil and played well in the second half after replacing Jefferson Lerma.
Coach Reinaldo Rueda is also expected to maintain the base of the team that played on Sunday and which included, among others, goalkeeper David Ospina, center-back Yerry Mina, midfielder Wilmar Barrios and winger Luis Díaz.
A HARD BATTLE
Ecuador coach Gustavo Alfaro predicted that Thursday’s game will be “a very tough battle” for “what is the time of the competition, what this means.”
La Tri is still in Caracas and plans to arrive in Barranquilla on Wednesday night to prepare for a match that comes with extra pressure after the defeat against Venezuela.
“Colombia is a level team, very difficult to violate, that draws many games to maintain a regularity against the others that we win and lose and we do not have it,” said the Argentine coach.
Along these lines, it is expected that for this game veteran goalkeeper Alexander Domínguez will return to the starting line-up, who can replace Moisés Ramírez after his poor performance in Caracas, as well as Michael Estrada, Toluca striker, who also did not start against Venezuela.
However, everything is a mystery so far, as Alfaro, who has been changing the line-up from game to game despite criticism, acknowledged that he has some players with discomfort who he will wait until hours before the game.
COLOMBIA: David Ospina; Daniel Muñoz, Yerry Mina, Carlos Cuesta, Johan Mojica; Wilmar Barrios, Matheus Uribe, Juan Guillermo Cuadrado; Luis Díaz, Rafael Santos Borré and Falcao García. Coach: Reinaldo Rueda.
ECUADOR: Alexander Domínguez; Ayrton Preciado, Robert Arboleda, Piero Hincapié, Pervis Estupiñán; Carlos Gruezo, Moisés Caicedo, Ángel Mena, Gonzalo Plata; Enner Valencia and Michael Estrada. Coach: Gustavo Alfaro.
REFEREE: Peruvian Diego Haro, assisted by his compatriots Jonny Bossio, Cory Carrera and Michael Espinoza. The Uruguayan Leondán González will be at the VAR.
STADIUM: Metropolitan Roberto Meléndez, from Barranquilla.
HOUR: 16:00 (21:00 GMT).