by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 5th 2014)
They know Us Now
The men who scored Ecuador’s goals yesterday had a message for England manager Roy Hodgson. Enner Valencia stunned England by heading his team into an 8th minute lead. “He probably has his reasons”, Valencia told me.“If he didn’t know, now he knows us a little more and hopefully we can play against him in the World Cup too”.
Hodgson had previously admitted that he didn’t know much about Ecuadoran football and that asking him about it was like asking an Ecuadoran about Crewe Alexandra. His eyes were focused on World Cup opponents Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica. Hodgson said that the team would watch videos the afternoon before the match – after their final training session.
Ecuador had never beaten England, or even drawn before yesterday. It is unlikely that either scorer featured heavily in the videos. Michael Arroyo was not a household name in England before yesterday, but he scored the goal of the match.
He won’t be passing under any radar now. “I think it was an important match and the goal was, well, it was a shot that I always take in training and thank God with it we were able to tie the game against a great team that is England, no”? Arroyo said.
Questions were raised about England’s preparation for the match. They had not studied their opponents thoroughly, or developed tactics with these opponents in mind. Instead, they were selected with Uruguay in mind to prepare against a South American style of football, but is there such a thing? Ecuador’s style is their own – a reflection of the footballing philosophy of their Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda.
“We know that Ecuador are a very good team and we’ll have a meeting now where we’ve put together a video, which we’ll show to our players, which we hope will give them a pretty good idea how Ecuador play and where the dangers will come tomorrow”, Hodgson said at his pre-match press conference the day before the match.
The matches here in Miami were about acclimatising to the conditions they are likely to face in Brasil and preparation against South American and Latin American styles of play.
“When it comes to individuals you’ll have to understand our major focus is preparing for matches against Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica”, Hodgson said “and these friendly matches, we’ve worked very, very hard on our own preparation.
His focus was firmly on England in the preparations. Had they under-estimated Ecuador – a team that finished above Uruguay in qualification for the World Cup – as a result of focusing on themselves? “… as a result I must admit that we are not anywhere near as well prepared in terms of letting the players know everything there is to know about Ecuador as I hope we will be when it comes to the Italians”, Hodgson said.
The Ecuadoran players and coach were keen to play down any row. They believe they proved themselves on the pitch. “Well I believe that they have Antonio [Valencia] over there in England, who is very renowned and if he [Hodgson] expressed himself like that, well I think we respect him a lot”, Arroyo said. “I believe that today he [Hodgson] found out about Ecuador, a team that has very important players and that will fight at the World Cup”.
Ecuador’s coach Rueda had previously said, “In the 21st century you have all those available options to see players and different logistics, so I don’t know if he’s just saying that”. It would appear not. Rueda also thought it impossible to gauge England’s chances against Uruguay from a match against his team. “In the end it [comparison] doesn’t really exist”, he said. “These are preparation games and teams are not really the same”.
And as for the main talking point – the double sending off. Sterling’s tackle on Antonio Valencia was reckless, but Hodgson disagreed. “The sending off was harsh, I thought”, Hodgson said. “It was a fierce challenge but it was also a fair one. Raheem Sterling was unlucky that Antonio Valencia reacted in the way he did. I’m a bit disappointed a senior professional like Antonio reacted in that way”.
It could be argued that Valencia thought the tackle dangerous – one that could have put him out of the World Cup. Nevertheless, Valencia is experienced and as Ecuador’s captain he should have been responsible and mature enough not to react.
Valencia’s name-sake Enner offered a more balanced perspective. “Well, perhaps those are plays that are seen in a normal game, but now in a friendly game we have to try to take care of each other” Enner Valencia told us. “The challenge – to tell you the truth – was seen as being very bad and then the reaction of Antonio too”.
Hodgson continued defending Sterling. “I also thought young Raheem Sterling showed a lot of calmness when he was being attacked and when he was walking away to make sure he didn’t give the referee any cause to send him off for fighting”, he said. “It’s a pity because I was quite looking forward to seeing him play on Saturday and it looks like that won’t be a possibility now”.
Meanwhile, Enner Valencia is sure that Ecuador will not be taken lightly again by England. “We knew we were going to face a high-ranking team such as England with many players that we see on TV and now we tried to match them,” he said. “We met a great national team and I believe we also played a great game”.
Hodgson accepted that he didn’t know much about Honduran football either.