The lifetime dream to be part of a major continental championship seemed to be vanishing away until Brazil came to the rescue. Nicolas Chiesa’s participation in the upcoming 2021 Copa America survived after original hosts Argentina and Colombia were dropped due to COVID-19 and political reasons, respectively.
The South American showpiece pencilled between June 13 and July 10, has now been transferred to the territory of the 2019 champions who will once again start as favourites to win this tournament.
Chiesa, who hails from Argentina, is relishing the opportunity to work on such a big stage as part of Ecuador’s national team technical staff.
“It is a source of pride and self-motivating to be part of such a competition,” Chiesa told the Times of Malta.
“I am grateful for what I have learned throughout my career because it has enabled me to have the chance to showcase myself at this level.
“The Copa America is a great competition and I aim to improve on what I have built so far.”
Chiesa was never fazed by the ongoing disputes regarding the competition’s logistics as he feels that why it is better to know as early as possible to start preparing, you still need to focus on your daily job to keep the players on their toes.
Ecuador have been drawn in Group B alongside Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela and Peru with the best four out of five teams qualifying into the knockout stages.
The Tri have never won the South American competition, with their best results being two fourth places in 1959 and 1993.
“The expectations of our team are to do well game after game, because that is our football philosophy and then we see how far our mentality takes us,” the former Floriana coach said.
“Our objective is to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but at the same time, we want to do well in the Copa America.”
One of Chiesa’s main tasks is to scout and analyse the Europe-based Ecuador players but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he spent most of the time watching the players on scouting platforms online.
Nonetheless, he remained driven to give his utmost and provide the best work to his technical staff, led by coach Gustavo Alfaro, to help Ecuador maintain their positive momentum.
“Despite having World Cup qualifications and Copa America coming up, my job has pretty much remained the same,” Chiesa pointed out.
“The coach wants us to study every minor detail, as usual, because they make the difference and at the same time we provide our players the best information possible, in particular regarding positioning, technical and tactical details.”
Ecuador stunned Uruguay (4-2) and Colombia (6-1) in their opening World Cup qualifiers, as they sit third on nine points, just behind giants Brazil and Argentina.
They resume their qualifications today, as they face Brazil in Porto Alegre before hosting Peru in Quito, on Monday night as they are look secure a World Cup berth for just the fourth time in history – having qualified in 2002, 2006 (best record – last 16) and 2014.
“Our objective is to resume where we left off in the first part of this preliminary round,” Chiesa said.
“We have to maintain the same level of performances even though it will become furthermore difficult now as teams will have noticed us and will do their homework to be prepared when facing us, but nonetheless we want to keep growing as a team.”
South American fever
Chiesa highlighted two important things in his preparations which are the players’ form – physically, mentally and technically – and the analysis of his opponents, which includes Brazil as well.
“I could study Brazil for 10 years, because they are an incredible team and you will always find something new and intriguing to research on,” Chiesa said.
“So, when it comes to opponents, I had to study Peru and Brazil which case in point, are also our opponents in the Copa America as well.”
With the Euro 2020 – the equivalent of the Copa America – coming up, Chiesa pointed out that there are no major differences between the competitions if not that regarding the identity and the fans’ support.
“Football wise, there is not much difference because the top South American players feature in the best teams across the world, therefore there is a lot of quality,” he explained.
“The biggest difference most probably is the fact that for South Americans, every game feels like a derby and every game is a battle to defend their country.
“The national identity in the European Championship may not be visible as much as in a Copa America, which does not mean that in Europe they do not love their country but it is just a different way of showing your patriotism and passion – it’s a pity that the Copa America won’t have any supporters.”