Ecuador head coach Felix Sanchez has likened their Copa America quarter-final to a final, as they prepare to take on defending champions, Argentina, in Houston.

La Tricolor did not make the best start to the tournament with their 2-1 defeat to eventual Group B winners Venezuela.

However, an impressive 3-1 win over Jamaica, coupled with their goalless draw against Mexico, was enough to see them finish second in the group and qualify for the knockout stage.

Ecuador have never won the Copa America, but a statement victory over Argentina would surely make them the ones to watch.

Sanchez is confident his players have what it takes to cause an upset.

"We know it is an unmatched opponent, and we know how tough it's going to be, and we'll see how that unfolds," Sanchez said.

"It is yet another final for us, and we will try to compete against the world's champion and the world's best team. I believe that our team is going to be extremely motivated with a very high morale and trying to play a good match.

"I have full confidence in our players. I know that they are going to give their best as they've done in the three matches. We know how tough it is, and we're going to do whatever we can to win it."

Argentina stayed perfect through the group stage, winning all three games without conceding a single goal, with Lautaro Martinez providing the spark – he has the lead in the Golden Boot race with his four goals.

It also looks like they will be boosted by the return of Lionel Messi, who missed their 2-0 victory over Peru due to a hamstring issue, while head coach Lionel Scaloni will be back on the touchline after serving a one-match ban.

Assistant coach Walter Samuel is still expecting a tough battle though, noting the difficulties that Ecuador's style poses.

"They are different rivals," Samuel said. "We faced Ecuador in the last friendly. We know them and [they] have a capable coach. The physical part is a big deal, but they have a great technical quality, too. They are playing this tournament well, and it'll be difficult.

"We have seen many players who had not had game time [against Peru]. We have now used almost the whole squad. Now comes the next round and we need to be ready."


Argentina – Lautaro Martinez

Only two Argentina players have scored more goals in a single edition of the tournament in the 21st century than Martinez has in this one (four): Juan Roman Riquelme in 2007 and Lionel Messi in 2016, both netting five goals each.

Martinez leads the way in Argentina's squad for shots (nine), despite only starting one of their matches so far.

Ecuador – Kendry Paez

Kendry Paez was an integral player for Ecuador in the group stages as he made the most ball recoveries (19) and attempted the second-most shots (10, behind Salomon Rondon's 13) among all teams in Group B.

The 17-year-old will join Chelsea next year, and is already displaying the quality that attracted the Blues in the first place.


Unsurprisingly, Opta's model is backing the defending champions to book a place in the semi-final.

Argentina have never lost to Ecuador at the Copa America, with 11 wins and five draws. However, they have only met once in the knockout rounds, with La Albiceleste advancing in 2021 after a 3-0 win in the quarter-finals.

In fact, Ecuador have only ever beaten Argentina five times in their previous 40 meetings in all competitions but have not got the better of them since a World Cup qualifier in October 2015, winning 2-0 (drawn one, lost six since).

Argentina have won their last eight matches, including friendlies, equalling the longest winning streak under Scaloni as head coach; a win in the quarter-finals against Ecuador will set a new record for the Albiceleste since Scaloni's debut in September 2018.


Argentina – 68.1%

Draw – 17.2%

Ecuador – 14.7%