Players of Ecuador jog during a training session of the national team in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Image Credit: AFP

Belo Horizonte: Ecuador are looking to emulate the success of Giro d’Italia cycling champion Richard Carapaz and “create surprises” at the Copa America in Brazil, central defender Arturo Mina said on Friday.

Carapaz, 26, shocked the cycling world last month by winning the three-week tour of Italy - the second most prestigious stage race in the sport after the Tour de France.

He was given a hero’s welcome when returning home to Quito on Monday having become only the second Latin American rider, after Colombia’s Nairo Quintana in 2014, to win the Giro.

And according to Mina, Ecuadoran sport is “massively improving its level. We have athletes raising the country up and we hope to do so too.”

“We’re going to create surprises,” said the 28-year-old, a defender at Turkish outfit Yeni Malatyaspor.

Ecuador are training in Belo Horizonte ahead of their opening Group C match there against 15-time winners Uruguay on Sunday.

They will be up against the competition’s most fearsome strike pairing: Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.

“It’s very difficult to play against these players who are goalscorers for their teams and play in big leagues,” said Mina.

Ecuador, who will also face champions Chile and invitees Japan, are one of only three of the South American federation’s 10 members never to have won the Copa.

Their best previous result was fourth in 1959 and 1993, both times as hosts.

“Our aim is to win it, but we have tough rivals,” Mina acknowledged.