Ecuador’s national football team faces perennial world power Brazil tonight in the opening round of Copa America play in Los Angeles.
The game kicks off at 9 p.m. Ecuador time in the Rose Bowl where a crowd of 50,000 is expected.
Odds-makers have made Ecuador the favorite based on its recent success in World Cup qualifier games and Brazil’s poor play that dates to its humiliating 7-1 loss in the 2014 World Cup semifinal game against Germany. Brazil has only two wins in six games in 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Brazil is also hampered by the loss to injury of Neymar da Silva Santos, the team’s top scorer.
Despite its problems, Ecuador coach Gustavo Quinteros says he expects Brazil to play at top form. “They are missing some players but they have some of the best young talent in the world,” he said. “This will be a difficult challenge for us but we look forward to it.”
Earlier in the week, Quinteros complained about training field conditions in Carson, California where Ecuador was practicing. “The U.S. is not a football country and is not familiar with international standards of field maintenance,” he said.
Ecuador, has not advanced out of a Copa America group stage since 1997, and will be getting its inspiration from something bigger than competing for a roster spot. In April, Ecuador’s coast was devastated by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake and several of the team players have assisted in relief efforts. Nationally, the football team has become a welcome distraction from the disaster.
“As Ecuadorans, they talk about the earthquake,” said Mauricio Alarcon, an Ecuadoran-born advertising executive who has led fundraising efforts in the U.S., referring to the national team players.