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It’s time for Ecuador to deliver at World Cup, says former Floriana coach Chiesa

Nicolas Chiesa (left) speaks with Ecuador coach Gustavo Alfaro.

At the young age of six, Nicolas Chiesa was mesmerised by the delightful plays that the late Diego Armando Maradona put on display during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Fast forward 36 years later, Argentina-born Chiesa will be stepping himself on the World Cup platform when he will be part of the Ecuador’s technical staff as assistant coach.

“During the 1990 World Cup, I registered every single game on the VHS and I used to watch them over and over again, even a year later,” Chiesa told the Times of Malta.

“For us South Americans, the World Cup is a special tournament – especially for Argentina, because it brings back memories of the glorious days of the past.”

Chiesa admitted that although he was petrified by what Maradona could do with the ball, he had a huge admiration towards Carlos Bilardo.

Bilardo led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup triumph and finished runner-up in the following edition, held in Italy.

“For me, Bilardo was a highly intelligent coach whose ideas were already ahead of time – he was speaking about aspects of the game that we are seeing them just now,” Chiesa said.

“He is an inspiration and I keep on listening on his past interviews even nowadays.”

Chiesa, whose coaching career started in Malta when he took over at Floriana FC in January 2018, has been preparing for this major showcase since they qualified.

For him, this will be the second straight important tournament with Ecuador after being part of the 2021 Copa America expedition.

In that tournament, Ecuador’s journey stopped in the quarter-finals when they succumbed to a

3-0 defeat to Argentina.

Chiesa and his staff are upbeat about the team’s chances of progressing from the group, which would mean reaching Ecuador’s best result in the World Cup so far – a round of 16 appearance.

Given the extraordinary circumstances in which this year’s World Cup will take place, shifting from the traditional June-July timeframe to a unique November-December period, Chiesa and his staff had to adjust their preparations.

“Usually, when the tournaments are held in June-July, we will welcome the European-based players at the back end of their season and obviously that means they will be tired and stressed,” Chiesa explained.

“For example, that is one reason why teams who qualify with flying colours, then they will struggle in the main tournament when held in June and July.

“On the other hand, welcoming the players just a few days before the actual World Cup, means that we had to a lot of work to do behind the scenes to prepare the players in innovative ways, such as using video analysis.”

While Ecuador, ranked 44th in the world, will launch their campaign today when they face hosts Qatar in the inaugural fixture, coach Gustavo Alfaro only had all his players available a week before the start of the tournament – when the official international window started.

“During the current season, me and the coach travelled around Europe to meet our players who ply their trade there,” the former Floriana coach pointed out.

“The idea was to speak to them about what was needed from them, monitor their progress with their clubs and show them clips about whatever we needed – whether individual clips, collective clips or information about our opponents.”

Chiesa and his staff gathered with the players who finished their club season in the Americas for two weeks in Ecuador’s capital, Quito.

This was followed by another short training camp, this time in Spain before they left for Doha on November 15.

In Group A, Ecuador were pitted against the hosts, Senegal and the Netherlands in what promises to be an intriguing matchup between these four teams.

Chiesa explained how all three teams differ from each other but all are competitive sides therefore Ecuador must roll up their sleeves if they want to make it through from this group.

“Qatar has been preparing for this tournament for the last 12 years,” Chiesa said.

“They remained under the same coach – Felix Sanchez – and adapted to a Spanish culture, making use of mostly the same players therefore they have forged a huge chemistry between them.

“In addition, they have been training together for the last four months, having also altered their top-flight, to provide the players as much preparation time as possible before the big appointment.”

Qatar’s build up to the World Cup included an Asian Cup triumph and participations in the Copa America, North America’s Gold Cup and in the European qualifiers.

Senegal, winners of the last edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, will be determined to emulate the heroes of 2002 and the talent they have could help them achieve big things in the Middle East.

“Senegal’s squad is full of players who also play on the biggest stage at club level such as Kalidou Koulibaly and Sadio Mane,” the Ecuador assistant coach admitted.

“They are a very physical side but have also a very important technical aspect in their playing style.

Speaking about the Netherlands, Chiesa heaped praise on coach Louis Van Gaal whose vast experience will surely be an asset for the team during Qatar 2022.

Players like Virgil Van Dijk, Memphis Depay and Frenkie De Jong are among the best in the world, for Chiesa, and will obviously provide a massive challenge when the two teams meet on November 25.

Any South American team that qualifies from the mighty CONMEBOL campaign means that he has done something remarkable.

Ecuador qualified, in style too, having held Brazil and Argentina to draws on home soil and securing a thumping 6-1 win over Colombia.

This will be their first appearance since Brazil 2014 and Ecuador find themselves in a good position to deliver solid displays given the talent they have in their squad.

Ecuador’s squad is composed of many players who play in some of the best leagues across Europe such as Brighton’s trio Pervis Estupinan, Moises Caicedo and Jeremy Sarmiento, Piero Hincapie of Bayer Leverkusen and Enner Valencia of Fenerbahce and formerly of West Ham.

“During the qualifications, we have delighted our supporters with our playing style, and we managed to score remarkable results,” Chiesa said.

“Now, it is time to deliver on the biggest stages of all with our first objective being qualifying from the group stages.

“Once we manage that, it’s 90 minutes after another – anything can happen, that’s the beauty of the game.”

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