Ecuador scored. Except the referee wrongly disallowed it.
Ecuador should have three points and sit in the driver’s seat in Group B at Copa America Centenario. The only reason they aren’t is a ref’s bad call.
Miller Bolanos’ 67th-minute cross was misplayed by Brazil goalkeeper Alisson and spilled into the Selecao’s own net.
It was a pretty clear goal and should have handed Ecuador a 1-0 win. But the one person whose opinion matters disagreed. The assistant referee ruled that the ball went out before Bolanos crossed it, waved his flag and the referee blew his whistle. The goal didn’t count, and the match ended scoreless.
A win would have had Ecuador sitting pretty. Not only would they have a foot in the quarterfinals — first place with Brazil in the rearview mirror and matches against Peru and Haiti to come would have made advancement easy from that point — but they would have been the favorites to win the group. That would put them in position to play the second-place team from Group A, as opposed to likely group winner Colombia.
So we’re not just talking about winning or losing a match on a bad call here. We’re talking about potentially denying Ecuador a relatively clear path to the semifinals of a major tournament.
Of course, Ecuador should still advance from their group and may even win it. This is a team that is tied for first in South American World Cup qualifying, so there’s no doubting their quality. And they showed how good they can be against Brazil, out-playing the Selecao for stretches. They, like Brazil, will be favored to win their next two matches, and if they can do that, all it will take is superior goal difference to win the group.
With Bolanos, Enner Valencia, Christian Noboa and the rest of a very good Ecuador team that has been tearing through opponents for the better part of a year, it’s hard not to be optimistic about Los Amarillos.
Still, it’s hard not to think about what could have been. A win over Brazil. The top spot in Group B. A statement on the second day of the tournament that Ecuador aren’t just a dark horse, they’re a real contender. But that was denied by a referee’s bad call.
* The assistant referee’s mistake also denied us one of the funnier howlers in recent major tournament history. The ball is right at Alisson. All he has to do is catch it. Hell, he could even drop it right in front of him. Blocking it would have worked. Pretty much anything except what he did would have been fine. But this howler, and the laughs that come with it, will be lost to history thanks to the missed goal. That’s unforgivable.