Ecuador began their Copa America 2021 campaign with a loss to former hosts Colombia in Group B and could only draw their next two matches with Venezuela and Peru as they now sit fourth in Group B in Copa America 2021.
If they genuinely aspire to qualify for the knockout stage only for the second time this century in the world’s oldest international tournament, then they need an immediate upturn in performance from everyone in the national team.
— Copa América (@CopaAmerica) June 14, 2021
The Ecuadorians have a plethora of players who possess the ability to break onto the international scene in Brazil and help La Tri qualify for the next round. One of them is the 20-year old prodigy Gonzalo Plata who plays for Sporting CP in Portugal.
FootTheBall takes a look at the former Liga de Quito player and what makes him a young star to watch out for at this summer’s Copa America tournament in Brazil.
WHO IS GONZALO PLATA?
Gonzalo Plata is a 20-year old Ecuadorian footballer who plays as a right winger for both Sporting Clube de Portugal and the Ecuador national football team. He started his youth career in football at Liga de Quito in his native Ecuador before joining fellow Ecuadorian club Independiente de Valle.
During the winter transfer window of the 2018-19 season he made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean, coming to Europe as he signed for Portuguese side Sporting Clube de Portugal in January 2019. He is contracted with the Green and Whites until June 2023.
Plata plays primarily as a right winger for both club and country, but can also function as a left winger on the opposite flank in addition to playing in the centre of the park.
He featured on the right side of a midlfield four in a 4-4-2 formation in Ecuador’s first match with Colombia in Copa America 2021 and came off the bench in their second to score the second goal for his national team.
For Sporting CP, he is mainly utilised as a substitute coming off the bench and only started 1 match in the entire season as the Portuguese club won the Primeira Liga for the first time in 19 years.
But to his credit he scored 1 goal and delivered 1 assist for the Green and Whites in a total of 9 appearances across the season. Plata defends very well for an attacking-minded player – he has an 85% success rate when it comes to tackling opposition players.
He is clinical when it comes to shooting, recording a 100% success rate when it came to taking shots accurately in the 2020-21 season, albeit he only scored a single goal.
In addition to this, he is also a pretty good dribbler of the ball when he breaks on slaloming runs in the opposition half, recording an impressive figure of almost 50% successful dribbles for Sporting CP.
The 20-year old is also good when it comes to passing and ball possession, completing 84% of the total passes he attempted successfully last season for the Portuguese champions
Although there is massive room for improvement for his occasional slip-ups, case in point his two yellow cards against Colombia after scoring a wonder goal in the World Cup qualifiers.
This weakness came to the fore once more as he switched off in the concluding moments of the game with Venezuela in terms of tracking the run of Venezuelan right wing-back that eventually led to Hernandez scoring the equaliser in second half stoppage time.
This error was also committed after Plata scored a goal that was worthy of a winner in the match in Group B, only to see two points slip away from Ecuador’s grasp as the spoils were shared.
But the Ecuadorian definitely needs to improve his crossing ability, not being able to deliver even a single proper cross during the entirety of the 2020-21 season.
The 20-year old has a proclivity to lunge into tackles when defending for his team and supply through balls to teammates or dribble the ball when in between an attacking manoeuvre.
At the time of writing this article, Ecuador are fourth in Group B in Copa America 2021 after slumping to defeat to Colombia in the opening match and drawing with Venezuela and Peru in their subsequent matches.
La Tri now face the daunting prospect of salvaging a respectable finish when they face last edition’s champions Brazil in their one remaining match in the continental tournament.
Plata has scored 5 goals for his national side until now, three of them coming in the South American World Cup qualifiers with Uruguay, Colombia and Peru (Ecuador won 2 of these 3 matches) and one coming in their match with Venezuela in the South American championship underway in Brazil at the moment.
He has the ability of dominating a flank all on his own that is reminiscent of his compatriot Antonio Valencia. But the 20-year old’s future in football is seen in more of an attacking role as a winger or a wing back who would play really well under a manager like Antonio Conte.
The Sporting CP player also has an outstanding and commendable work ethic on the pitch and his work rate is one of his defining features in the game.
A player like him can do really well at both Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League as one of the front-three or as a heavy duty, all action midfielder in the middle of the park.
Plata’s talent and ability only need the right platform on the pitch for the Ecuadorians to help them finish in a respectable position eventually in Group B after having not won even a single game until now.
PREDICTION FOR COPA AMERICA
Ecuador have a tough run of matches in the Copa America now, and after having lost the first match to Colombia and drawn their second with Venezuela the pressure is on them to prove their worth.
And under such conditions, it is the perfect time for Gonzalo Plata to take the remaining matches by the scruff of their necks and showcase his prowess and ability.
Strong performances in matches particularly with last Copa America’s champions Brazil will go a long way in bolstering his reputation in the transfer market this summer.
And one might just see A-list clubs scrambling to get the signature of the highly rated player before his market value skyrockets after the conclusion of Copa America 2021.
IDEAL LANDING SPOT
The ideal landing spot for Gonzalo Plata would definitely be the English club Arsenal in the Premier League in order to ensure his personal growth and development under Mikel Arteta.
The Gunners need reinforcements in attack and the 20-year old will be a perfect addition to the North London club as they look to bounce back from a disappointing season. .
Expect Arsenal to enter the market for the Sporting CP winger to bolster their forward line this summer in their bid to re-establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League after finishing in 9th position last season.
Englishman Bukayo Saka and Gonzalo Plata can potentially be the heralders of a new era for the North London-based club if the Ecuadorian does make the move from Portugal to England (akin to other famous superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes).