Brazil (+210) at Ecuador (+125), Draw (+220)
The road to the 2018 World Cup is getting pretty rocky for Brazil. Four teams from South America will automatically qualify for the tournament, while the fifth-place finisher will advance to a playoff against a team from Asia. Shockingly, the Brazilians sit sixth through six fixtures. Equally shocking, their next opponent, Ecuador, sits first. Brazil will try to put the tiny nation back in its place this Thursday when they meet at Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa in Quito (5:00 PM ET).
After their 7-0 debacle in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup against Germany, Brazil brought in the defensive-minded Dunga as manager. His second stint with the Selecao didn’t go any better than the first, though, and he was let go after a disappointing 2016 Copa America when Brazil failed to advance to the knockout stage.
Leonardo Bacchi, better known as Tite, now takes the reins. Look for the former Club World Cup champion (Corinthians, 2012) to instill a less individualistic style of play.
Even though Brazil has yet to win a road game and have some work to do in the standings, they may have a little momentum on their side come Thursday. Key striker Neymar is fresh off winning a gold medal for his country at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Neymar’s job will be to keep pace with Ecuador’s surprisingly potent offense. The team is averaging two goals per game through six fixtures. Felipe Caicedo is the man to watch, with four goals in four appearances.
Despite the firepower on both sides, the sides played to a 0-0 draw last time they met (at this year’s Copa).
There’s no denying that, between the two, Ecuador are playing better of late. When you add in that Brazil will be playing under a new manager, there are reasons to shy away from them. That said, Brazil is 3-2-0 in the last five head-to-head, and haven’t lost in Ecuador since 2004. They have the more talented roster, and that will eventually start to show in these qualifiers. I like them to earn a point on the road.
Pick: Draw (+220).
Photo credit: copa2014.gov.br, CC BY 3.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
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