Ecuador's 'Superman' Valencia should be fit for Netherlands game

The 33-year-old lived up to fans with both goals in the win in the opener before limping off in the second half

Reuters
Published : 21 Nov 2022, 09:49 AM
Updated : 21 Nov 2022, 09:49 AM

Enner Valencia, Ecuador's all-time top scorer and hero of their opening game win over World Cup hosts Qatar, should be fit for their second Group A game against the Netherlands on Friday, according to his coach.

The 33-year-old, who lived up to fans' nickname of "Superman" with both goals in the South Americans' 2-0 win on Sunday night, limped off in the second half, triggering fears his tournament might be over despite the blistering start.

"I have some discomfort in my knee and ankle. The doctors will assess and see how serious it is," Valencia said, applying ice but then looking comfortable as he walked onto the pitch at the end to celebrate with the team and their fans.

"I hope to play in the second game against Holland."

Coach Gustavo Alfaro was full of praise for his main man and was sure he would be fine for their next group game against three-time finalists the Netherlands.

"Enner will play against the Netherlands - there is no doubt about that," he told reporters.

SERENADED BY FANS

Ecuador punched their way out of arguably the world's toughest qualifying group, taking the fourth automatic berth for South America. As well as their veteran captain, they have plenty of young talent including silky midfielder Moises Caicedo.

But it is Valencia whom they rely on for goals.

The man who sometimes went hungry as a youth and sold cows' milk to pay for his boots has now netted the nation's last five World Cup goals.

He could well have had a hat-trick against Qatar had an early header not been ruled out for a marginal offside by a team mate.

"I thought it was a goal," Alfaro said, relieved that it did not matter in the end. "I think Michael Estrada needs to do something about his toenails because it was very tight."

Valencia's double was the fourth time in the last five World Cups that a player has scored twice in the opening game of the tournament after Germany’s Miroslav Klose (2006), Brazil's Neymar (2014) and Russia's Denis Cheryshev (2018).

"He has gone through tough times," Alvaro said.

"He was questioned at times in Ecuador, but now we can see all that he gives us."

Around Ecuador on Sunday, fans gathered in squares, bars and shopping malls. After Valencia's first goal, he was cheered every time he touched the ball.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher