Ecuador and Japan played out a 1-1 draw that saw both nations make group-stage exits at the Copa America on Monday.
Shoya Nakajima's opener for Japan was cancelled out by Angel Mena during the first half of the Group C clash in Belo Horizonte. Ecuador and Japan looked for a winner but ended up playing out a draw that suited neither team as they bid to reach the quarterfinals.
A victory would have seen either advance as one of the best third-placed teams. They are instead both going home.
Both teams made a relatively scrappy start, trying their luck from distance in the opening stages. But Japan took the lead in the 15th minute through Nakajima's fine strike. Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez swept a ball in behind straight to Nakajima, whose 25-yard effort went in via the underside of the crossbar with the keeper stranded.
Enner Valencia should have brought Ecuador level eight minutes later, but his shot from close range was tame and well saved by a scrambling Eiji Kawashima after a poor turnover by Japan.
However, Ecuador equalised 10 minutes before half-time thanks to Mena. Robert Arboleda had a volley well saved by Kawashima, but Mena was on hand to tap away the rebound and make it 1-1.
Ecuador made the better start to the second half, but Japan almost restored its lead, Naomichi Ueda heading a set-piece straight at Dominguez in the 66th minute. Pedro Pablo Velasco fired wide for Ecuador midway through the second half and both teams pushed in the closing stages, but struggled to create clear-cut opportunities, Daizen Maeda squandering a one-on-one chance for Japan in the 90th minute.
What does it mean? Paraguay in luck
Ecuador and Japan needed a win to progress as one of the best third-placed teams. Instead, they drew, allowing Paraguay to advance to an unlikely quarterfinal against Brazil.
Ecuador's struggles continue
It came into the tournament on a four-match winless run and that continued for Ecuador at the Copa America. Ecuador has won only two of its 19 Copa America games since 2004.
Japan falls short despite good signs
Having taken a relatively young squad to the tournament, Japan was solid without managing the one win it needed. The 4-0 loss to Chile was harsh on it, while it improved in draws with Uruguay and Ecuador.
Key Opta Facts:
- Ecuador has won none of its last five meetings against Asian nations (2D L3), with its last win in such games coming in 2008 against Iran (1-0).
- Ecuador has failed to progress from the group stage in eight of the 11 Copa America tournaments with this competition format (since 1993), managing to do so only in 1993, 1997 and 2016.
- Japan's Nakajima scored the ninth goal from outside the box in the 2019 Copa America (18 games played so far) — the highest average of the last four tournaments (one every two games).
- Ecuador has won only two of its 19 Copa America games played since 2004 (D4 L13), and both wins were against non-CONMEBOL nations: 2-1 v Mexico in 2015, 4-0 v Haiti in 2016.
Japan looks ahead to the EAFF Football Championship in December, while Ecuador has plenty of reflecting to do after a poor campaign.
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