Two unfamiliar foes looking to break out of a run of terrible results face each other in the United States very early on Friday morning in what could turn out to be a thrilling encounter
Nigeria’s Super Eagles are scheduled to lock horns with Ecuador’s La Tricolor in an international friendly match inside the Red Bull Arena in California, United States.
Soccernet.ng‘s Imhons Erons highlights five factors that set La Tri apart as a fascinating opponent for the Super Eagles.
First-ever meeting with the Super Eagles
Ecuador do not face African opposition often, and this is the first time they will meet an opponent from the black continent since losing 2-1 to Uganda in a friendly in 2005.
La Tri’s record against African teams reads two wins over Zambia, one draw versus Cameroon, and one loss each to Libya, Senegal, and Uganda.
This is, however, the first time La Tricolor will be trading tackles with Nigeria’s Super Eagles.
The South Americans have been placed in a World Cup group with African champions Senegal and are looking to prepare for that game with this Super Eagles friendly.
La Tricolor, a tough nut to crack
Ecuador is not flying at the moment, having drawn four and lost one of their last five matches.
But two impressive 1-1 draws against Brazil and Argentina helped book their place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar later in the year.
La Tri have defeated Chile (2-0, in November), Mexico (3-2, in October), and Paraguay (2-0, in September) to show they are not a team that can be taken for granted.
La Tri recently defeated Nigeria’s nemesis, El Tri
Nigeria, early on Sunday morning, lost 2-1 to Mexico, a defeat secured by William Troost-Ekong’s second-half own-goal. The Eagles are yet to beat the North Americans in seven outings.
While the Super Eagles continue to struggle against El Tri, Ecuador got the better of the eight-time Concacaf Gold Cup winners when the two sides met in October.
Goals from Quiñónez, Corozo, and Chala helped the South Americans turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Ecuador sit below Nigeria on the FIFA ranking
La Tri are placed 46th on the world ranking, some 16 places below the Super Eagles, the third-best ranked African team.
While the Eagles have won the Africa Cup of Nations trophy three times in 1980, 1994, and 2013, Ecuador have never lifted their continental championship, the Copa America.
La Tri’s best finish at the tournament is two fourth-place finishes in 1959 and 1993.
Ecuador’s captain fantastic is a former Premier League star
Fenerbahce forward Enner Valencia is not only the skipper of the Ecuadorian national team, but the former West Ham star is also the highest goalscorer for La Tricolor with 35 international goals in 70 matches.
The ex-Everton winger has been named in Ecuador’s 25-man squad preparing to face the Eagles at the Red Bull Arena, New Jersey, on June 3.
Samuel Chukwueze’s Villarreal teammate Pervis Estupian is also in the squad.
The team is led by former Boca Junior manager Gustavo Julio Alfaro, a 59-year-old Argentine tactician.