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Preview: Australia vs. Ecuador – prediction, team news, lineups

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Preview: Australia vs. Ecuador - prediction, team news, lineups
Preview: Australia vs. Ecuador - prediction, team news, lineups

Australia host Ecuador at Sydney’s CommBank Stadium on Friday morning in a cross-continental friendly between two of the bright sparks from the Qatar World Cup.

The Socceroos produced an almighty upset by advancing to the round of 16 of the tournament for the first time in 16 years, while Ecuador narrowly missed out on a place in the knockout stages despite opening the competition with a win against the host nation.

This is the first of two friendlies in four days between the countries, with the second scheduled for Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium on 28 March, in a celebration of Australia’s achievements at the World Cup.

Preview: Australia vs. Ecuador – prediction, team news, lineups

Graham Arnold was voted best coach of the entire tournament by the highly-regarded French publication L’Equipe as he steered Australia to 1-0 victories against Tunisia and a much-fancied Denmark team to set up a last-16 tie against Argentina.

On his 1,000th career appearance, Lionel Messi inspired the eventual champions to a two-goal lead in the first knockout round, but an own goal from Enzo Fernandez in the final 15 minutes halved the deficit and forced Argentina into a skittish conclusion; goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez had to make a crucial smothering save deep into stoppage time to deny Australia’s Garang Kuol.

Preview: Australia vs. Ecuador – prediction, team news, lineups

Arnold’s efforts – which included a gruelling qualification process long before reaching Qatar made all the more arduous due to Australia’s strict COVID-19 restrictions – were rewarded with a contract extension until 2026.

Since suffering a 4-0 friendly defeat to Brazil in June 2017, Australia have lost just one game on home soil; falling to a pair of late goals from Kaoru Mitoma in a World Cup qualifier against Japan 12 months ago.

Ecuador were 20 minutes away from joining Australia in the round of 16 but Kalidou Koulibaly fired Senegal ahead in their final group game against the South American side, condemning La Tri to a premature departure despite defeating Qatar and battling out a draw with the Netherlands.

Gustavo Alfaro stepped down as manager after this disappointment – despite reported efforts from the federation to persuade him to stay – opening up a slot at the helm of a talented side brimming with young talent which the Argentine coach had nurtured.

Felix Sanchez, the manager of the Qatar team which Ecuador swept aside in the tournament opener, was put in charge of La Tri at the start of March.

The former Barcelona academy coach spent a decade managing various age categories of Qatar’s national team and led the senior side to victory in the 2019 Asian Cup, but did not have his contract renewed after overseeing the worst-ever performance of a host nation at a World Cup as Qatar lost all three games, conceding seven goals and scoring just one.