Messi’s big favorite in Argentina against Ecuador in Copa quarterfinals

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Argentina has Lionel Messi, history and form are on the cards for his Copa America quarter-final against Ecuador on Saturday.

Ecuador have yet to win a match after three draws and one loss, but Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has “maximum respect” for the team coached by compatriot Gustavo Alfaro.

“Ecuador are a dynamic and fast team which could make it difficult for everyone. They have some interesting players, ”said Scaloni.

Argentina dominated their group with three wins and a draw, and Messi in top form. The captain has scored three goals in four games while setting a record for most Argentina caps.

Messi, apparently not distracted by the end of his contract with Barcelona, ​​benefits from a squad that allows him to be close to the penalty area instead of kicking the ball away from goal.

But Scaloni still have some decisions to make ahead of the meeting at the Olympic Stadium in Goiania.

The first is whether defender Cristian Romero, who has pain in his left knee, will play. The coach said Romero’s replacement could be Germán Pezzella. There was also a challenge between Nicolás Tagliafico and Marcos Acuña for the left-back.

Midfielder Leandro Paredes is expected to play, but Guido Rodríguez could still take his place after a good performance.

Ecuador are third in South America’s World Cup qualifiers after six games, but have struggled in the Copa America.

“We cannot change the past, but we can change the present,” Ecuadorian midfielder Jhegson Méndez said. “We are not afraid of anyone, we are focused on how we can make Copa America history.”

Alfaro has been accused in Argentina of being too defensive, but a game like Saturday’s – when Ecuador will be a big underdog – is to his liking.

“Tradition and experience give Argentina an advantage, but another tournament has started,” Alfaro said. “It’s not always that the team that looks better wins. In this kind of match, those who succeed win and those who make mistakes lose.

Ecuador has four players who are recovering from injuries; forwards Enner Valencia and Gonzalo Plata; and midfielders Méndez and Moisés Caicedo.

The winner will face Colombia or Uruguay in the semi-final.

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