Chile, Ecuador prepare for opener

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Chile and Ecuador trained in Puerto Ordaz on Monday ahead of their opening match in Group B of the Copa America.

Updated: June 28, 2007 15:18 IST
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Puerto Ordaz:

Both Chile and Ecuador will go into the opening game in Group B of the Copa America knowing that defeat will almost certainly mean an early exit from the tournament.

The teams have been drawn in Group B - the so-called Group of Death - alongside the might of Brazil and Mexico.

The pressure is on for Nelson Acosta, whose future as Chile's coach is rumoured to depend on his team's performance after a series of poor results in the build-up.

After winning four matches in a row late last year, they were thrashed 4-0 by Brazil in March, then held at home by Costa Rica and away by an experimental Argentine side. They also lost away to Costa Rica earlier this month.

Acosta is expected to field a four-man attack, with playmaker Matias Fernandez - who moved from Colo Colo to Villarreal in Spain earlier this year - alongside Humberto Suazo, Reinaldo Navia and Liverpool winger Mark Gonzalez.

Chile have never won the Copa America, but were runners-up in 1955, 1979 and 1987. Their goalkeeper Nicolas Petric was asked how the team is viewing this tournament.

"In general Chile are playing in a lot of important championships, and this Copa America, I feel, is very important for Chilean football. Obviously there will be a few conclusions drawn with the (World Cup) qualifiers, but this is an important cup for Chile - it's very decisive for us," said Petric.

Lack of form

Chile's opponents on Wednesday, Ecuador, also come into the tournament short of form, after suffering a 3-1 defeat to Colombia on Saturday.

They have won three, drawn two and lost four games since last year's World Cup finals, where they reached the last 16.

Coach Luis Fernandez Suarez knows that with memories of the World Cup fading fast, the pressure is on for both him and his team. But he says his players are ready for the task ahead.

"When you employ tactics you have to have a good technique and I think this team has evolved in this sense. And physically you have to be 100 per cent, and this team is in good shape," added Suarez.

Defender Ivan Hurtado knows that if Ecuador are to stand any chance of progressing into the second round, they must take their chances as and when they arise.

"We won't have many opportunities, so when we do have them we have to take them, to feel satisfied and happy with our performance," said the Ecuador defender.

Ecuador's best finish in the Copa America was fourth place in 1993, when they hosted the tournament for the first, and so far only time.

It would represent a major surprise, however, to see either they or Chile advance into the second round at the expense of Mexico and champions Brazil.

Work is continuing, meanwhile, in and around the Polideportivo Cachamay in Puerto Ordaz, as Venezuela races to put the finishing touches to its stadiums.

The venue of one of the semi-finals has already been switched just over two weeks before the match was due to be played.

The first semi-final, due to take place in Caracas on July 10th, will now be played in Maracaibo.

The Venezuelan capital will now host only one match in the tournament -- the third-place play-off.

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