Ecuador fired head coach Felix Sanchez immediately after their Copa America 2024 defeat to Argentina Thursday night. The quarterfinal loss to the World Cup winners ended La Tri’s tournament run. It was the third time in the last four Copa America competitions that Ecuador reached the knockout round.

Following the defeat, Ecuador’s governing body of the sport, the Ecuadorian Football Federation (FEF), announced that they were parting ways with Sanchez. “We thank Felix and his coaching staff for their work and professionalism, and wish him success in his future endeavors,” stated the organization.

The Spanish coach was previously hired at the position in March of 2023. Sanchez only lost five of 19 total matches in charge of the team. Following the Argentina game, the coach told reporters that the team was showing progress despite the defeat.

“We managed to advance from the group stage to the knockouts,” claimed Sanchez. “I have congratulated the players even if we weren’t able to progress. I think they deserve the credit, that is my opinion.”

“But I think that in the next edition of this tournament, we’ll get here with a more experienced team. These are very young players. Maybe the results were unfair, but I know that we have to believe in this group of players.”

Ecuador arguably outplayed Argentina for much of the game

The decision to sack the coach is quite controversial. Despite the loss, La Tri played well against arguably the best national team in the world. Statistically speaking, Ecuador went toe-to-toe against the reigning world champions. Sanchez’s side recorded more shots than Lionel Messi’s team, while also essentially splitting the overall possession down the middle.

The hard-fought match on Thursday ended in regulation with the score even at 1-1. Argentina took a slim advantage into the halftime break thanks to a goal from defender Lisandro Martinez. Ecuador, however, fought back with a valiant second-half effort.

Captain Enner Valencia could have tied the scoreline with a penalty late in regular time. Nevertheless, the veteran striker hit the base of the post with the shot. Kevin Rodriguez then eventually netted the equalizer in added time. Substitute Jordy Caicedo also had a glorious chance to win the game before a penalty shootout but sent his free header wide of the post.

The two missed opportunities essentially cost the team the victory, as Argentina edged their opponents in the shootout. The showing, however, was a significant improvement in the team’s Copa America 2021 quarterfinal result. Ecuador was thumped 3-0 at the hands of Argentina at the tournament three years ago.

Sanchez was excelling at Ecuador before getting fired

While they may have lost the game, Ecuador showed great promise, particularly considering they were one of the youngest teams in the tournament. La Tri is currently ranked 30th by FIFA at the moment, yet they arguably outplayed number one Argentina throughout the night. Ahead of Thursday’s fixture, Ecuador also edged out 15th-ranked Mexico in Group B to even advance to the quarterfinals.

Before Copa America 2024, Sanchez has Ecuador sitting in a 2026 World Cup qualifying spot. La Tri is currently fifth among CONMEBOL sides and six South American teams earn an automatic spot in the competition. Ecuador previously played in the 2022 World Cup but was knocked out at the group stage. They also failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament.

Ecuador will now soldier on without Sanchez on the sidelines. The team is next set to continue their World Cup qualifiers against Brazil and Peru in September.


Copa América 2024

Here are some resources to get you ready for Copa!
Copa América Schedule: Full schedule of all games for the 2024 tournament
How to watch: Information on where to find the games on TV and streaming
How to Stream Learn how you can stream Copa games live in 2024
Key Dates: Learn All the important dates to mark on your calendar
Copa (United States of) América: South America's biggest tournament comes back to the USA
2024 Soccer Calendar: Get the lowdown on what will be a busy year in soccer