CARSON, Calif. -- The feeling is unanimous: All respect for Brazil.
Ecuador players agree that neither the absence of Brazil's biggest star, Neymar, nor the other absences due to injury in their roster are reasons to underestimate opponents that, historically, have been atop the soccer world.
With five World Cups, eight Copa Americas and four Confederations Cups won, in addition to the legendary quality of their players, for the Ecuadorians, it is inconceivable to see Brazil as a weak team.
Brazil is still Brazil.
"Brazil will always be a very tough opponent," said captain Walter Ayovi following the team's training session at Stub Hub Center on Thursday. "Brazil is Brazil. It is a very tough opponent for any national team. Now we have the opportunity to face them, and we hope to start with the right foot. "
For the Ecuadorian defender Frickson Erazo, who currently plays for Atletico Mineiro and has played in the Brazilian first division over the past two years, La Canarinha have "great players," regardless of the generation currently suiting up.
"It would be too disrespectful to consider Brazil a weak team; I believe they always have important players, "said Erazo. "Brazil has young players like Walace, who nowadays is one of the best attacking midfielders they have. A player like Douglas Santos is a left back with great projections. Maybe it’s been hard for them to play well as a compact group; however, they have great players "
Historically, in 21 competitive games played between the countries in Copa America and World Cup qualifying, Brazil have won 16 games, tied three and lost just twice. In friendlies, Brazil are 8-0 all-time against Ecuador.
However, the modern reality in qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is completely different.
Ecuador (4-1-1) sit atop of the CONMEBOL standings, along with Uruguay, while Brazil (2-1-3) are in sixth place. The three teams that Brazil have tied (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay) have all lost their games against Ecuador.
Could Ecuador actually be the favorites to win Group B in Copa America Centenario?
"We do not consider ourselves favorites," Erazo said. "We do consider ourselves a strong team that will give away absolutely nothing, [especially] in Copa America, where we have always seen that the games are highly competitive."