Brazil will be looking to maintain their unbeaten record in World Cup 2022 CONMEBOL Qualifying when they travel to the Estadio Rodrigo Paz Delgado in Quito to face Ecuador on Thursday. La Tri, meanwhile, have picked up 10 points from their last 12 available on home soil, and will be hoping to consolidate their place in the top four with another three points. With Brazil having become the first South American nation to book their place in Qatar, the pressure is off for head coach Tite as they head into their final five qualification matches, though the 60-year-old will have one eye on leading his side through an unprecedented unbeaten campaign since the 10-team qualification format was introduced back in 1998.
Ecuador boss Alfaro is expected to make changes to the starting lineup which drew 1-1 in a friendly encounter against El Salvador last month. Goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez will likely return between the sticks at the expense of Hernan Galindez, while Angelo Preciado, Felix Torres and Piero Hincapie could all start ahead of Bryan Castillo, Fernando Leon and Gustavo Vallecilla, with the former two ruled out with injuries.
Experienced forward Enner Valencia will be pushing to start in attack, while Jhegson Mendez and Moises Caicedo may be handed starts in centre-midfield. As for Brazil, they will have to cope without star forward Neymar due to an ankle injury, while Roberto Firmino and Richarlison have not been selected in Tite’s 26-man squad. Vinicius Junior and Raphinha are the most likely candidates to operate on the flanks and they could be joined in attack by either Gabriel Barbosa or Gabriel Jesus.
After missing Brazil’s last match through suspension, Casemiro is expected to play in midfield, while 38-year-old Dani Alves could start his first game for the national team in over a year, joining Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Alex Sandro in the back four. The Selecao locked horns with rivals Argentina in their most recent qualifier – their first meeting since the 2021 Copa America final – playing out a goalless draw in San Juan. That result saw the five-time world champions move onto 35 points from their 13 games played and maintain their six-point advantage over Argentina in second.
Brazil are currently unbeaten in each of their last 30 World Cup qualifiers, with their last defeat dating back to October 2015 when Chile won 2-0 in Santiago. Tite’s men will be confident of extending ther impressive run when they face Ecuador on Thursday, a nation they are undefeated against in their last 12 meetings, including a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture in Porto Alegre last year. The Selecao will, however, be seeking to avoid a third successive away game without a win, after drawing their last two without scoring against Argentina and Colombia.
After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Ecuador are now in a strong position to advance to the 2022 tournament in Qatar, having won seven and drawn two of their 14 matches. An impressive 2-0 win away against 10-man Chile last time out helped Gustavo Alfaro’s men remain in third place and crucially move six points clear of Peru in fifth. Ecuador – who are 46th in the FIFA world rankings – head into Thursday’s challenging encounter with Brazil having lost only one of their seven World Cup qualifiers on home soil, scoring 17 goals in the process, which is more than any other South American nation this campaign.
La Tri have also netted in four of their last five home internationals against the Selecao, so they will be confident of breaching their backline, which has only conceded four goals so far in qualifying. Ecuador also scored in their most recent meeting against Brazil when they claimed a 1-1 draw in the group stage of last summer’s Copa America – 34-year-old Angel Mena coming off the bench to cancel out Eder Militao’s opener.
Brazil have already booked their place in Qatar and are now focused on securing top spot in the Conmebol table. They travel to the altitude of Quito to take on a young and promising Ecuador side who are very close to qualifying themselves. The Ecuadorians lie in third place, six points ahead of fifth with the top four to make it to Qatar automatically.
Byron Castillo and Luis Fernando Leon have been left out of the Ecuador squad due to injury. Neymar will play no part for Brazil as a result of an ankle injury, but Barcelona’s Dani Alves has returned to the squad. Roberto Firmino and Richarlison have not been called up for the Selecao.
NAME: Ecuador – Brazil
DATE: 27 Jan 2022
TIME: 21:00 UTC
VENUE: Estadio Rodrigo Paz Delgado, Quito, Ecuador