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  • Writer's pictureIan Pulczynski

Socceroos Opposition Watch: Ecuador

It's been four months since Australia's gallant display against eventual world champions Argentina in Qatar. The Socceroos now return to Parramatta for the first time since November 2021 to host South American nation Ecuador in the first of two friendlies on Friday night.

Front Page Football looks at the Ecuadorian squad, their history against Australia, and the new face leading them on the sidelines.

Ecuador celebrate a goal at the World Cup in Qatar. Source: FIFA

Referred to as La Tri, the South American nation sits 41st on the latest FIFA rankings, rising three spots since the World Cup commenced.

Ecuador was one of the 32 teams that qualified for Qatar, having missed out on the previous edition in Russia.

After two games, their World Cup campaign looked promising, with a comfortable 2-0 win over hosts Qatar and an impressive 1-1 draw against the Netherlands.

La Tri found themselves in an excellent position after two matches. However, their hopes of qualification to the knockout stages were extinguished by AFCON champions Senegal, who defeated the CONMEBOL side 2-1 at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Ecuador were eliminated at the group stage of the 2022 World Cup. Source: FIFA

Both Ecuador and Australia have only met once before, and that was in 2014 at The Den in London. The Socceroos went down 3-4 despite leading 3-0 thanks to a Tim Cahill brace and a Mile Jedinak penalty. Ecuador replied with goals from Fidel Martinez, Segundo Castillo, Enner Valencia, and Édison Méndez.

There will also be a new man on the sideline for Ecuador. The Ecuadorian FA recently appointed Spanish manager Felix Sanchez Bas to take the reigns from Gustavo Alfaro.

Sanchez has a wealth of Asian football experience, basing himself in Qatar from 2006 to 2022. He was crucial in the rise of Qatari youth and senior football. He has worked with Qatari footballers such as Almoez Ali and Akram Afif since their time at the Aspire Academy. Sanchez was a significant leader in the development of Qatari football.

Felix Sanchez is the current Ecuador manager. Source: AFC

Sanchez led the Gulf nation to Asian Cup glory in 2019, defeating Japan 3-1 in the final and putting Qatari football on the map, establishing a message to the world that Qatar is competitive and hungry for success.

Despite what can only be described as a failure at the World Cup, Sanchez's experience working with a tight-knit group of players over a significant amount of time proves he has the capability and mindset to lead a country like Ecuador into their 2026 World Cup qualifying cycle.

The Ecuador role will be his first managing a South American national team, and he will look to start with back-to-back victories against Australia.

Players to watch

Piero Hincapié

The Bayer Leverkusen centre-back has played a vital role under the guidance of Xabi Alonso this season, featuring in 22 Bundesliga games and keeping five clean sheets. On Monday morning AEST, he played the full 90 minutes for Leverkusen in a famous 2-1 win over German giants Bayern Munich.

Along with playing most Bundesliga fixtures this season, the 21-year-old has also played in the Champions League and Europa League. Featuring in the Bundesliga, Champions League, Europa League, and World Cup, Hincapié has gained much top-flight European football experience in recent months and will be a challenge to face for Australia's attack.

Pervis Estupiñán

Signed as Marc Cucurella's replacement, Estupiñán is a left wing-back capable of shutting down some of the fastest players in the Premier League. This trait was also evident during his time at La Liga side Villarreal.

Estupiñán has kept five clean sheets this season and added four assists for Brighton, who are enjoying a fantastic 2022/23 season.

Pervis Estupiñán is a wing-back known for his pace and ability to shut down quick wingers. Source: Premier League

Estupiñán has impressed so much with his efforts and development at the Seagulls that he is regarded as one of the best left-backs in South America. He poses a threat for Australia to defend against, given his speed and quick thinking in the final third. The Socceroos need to be wary of his attacking prowess.

Moisés Caicedo

Caicedo is another Brighton player and Ecuador's most important asset heading into the friendlies against the Socceroos.

He has been an unbelievable signing for Brighton from Independiente del Valle in Ecuador. Caicedo's market value is consistently increasing as this Premier League season progresses. The 21-year-old midfielder has attracted much interest from opposition teams such as Liverpool and Chelsea. Transfermarkt estimates his current value at €55 million.

He might get less mainstream attention than Brighton colleagues in 2022 World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister or Japanese international Kaoru Mitoma. But the Ecuadorian has played a pivotal part in Brighton's recent success.

It is yet to be revealed how Sanchez will likely use Caicedo within his system. Under Roberto De Zerbi at Brighton, Caicedo is one of two holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation. He is known for his commitment and defensive work rate.

Moisés Caicedo is a player to watch for Ecuador. Source: Sky Sports UK

Caicedo will be a hard player for Australia to halt, given the absence of Celtic midfielder Aaron Mooy. A Mooy vs Caicedo midfield battle would have been a fantastic contest. But the Socceroo will not feature due to injury.


Finally, FPF can confirm that Ecuador will be training at Wanderers Football Park in Rooty Hill during their stay in Sydney.

Australia host Ecuador in Parramatta this Friday night at Commbank Stadium before travelling to Marvel Stadium in Melbourne for the second game of their friendly series.

Click here to read more of FPF's Socceroos content.


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