Ecuador‘s captain and top scorer Enner Valencia is still nursing a minor knee sprain ahead of his team’s World Cup Group A clash with the Netherlands from which the South Americans could progress to the second round for only the second time. The 33-year-old limped off after scoring twice in Ecuador‘s opening win against Qatar, raising a question mark over his availability against the Dutch on Friday.
“Yesterday, we took some images. Nothing serious showed up. It was a light sprain,” team doctor Camilo Chiquito told reporters in an update. “It’s up to him how the situation evolves in the next few days in the gym and on the field.” Coach Gustavo Alfaro has said he expects the veteran forward to play, but fans are worried and the national team’s website showed a photo of Valencia with the caption: “Stay calm.”
Goalkeeper Hernan Galindez said Ecuador were delighted to be in control of their own fate after what turned out to be a comfortable 2-0 victory over the tournament hosts. “We have the great possibility of not depending on anyone. Having beaten Qatar, we only depend on ourselves,” he told reporters at the same media briefing in Qatar.
“We are focused on working and understanding that we have a very hard game ahead on Friday, but we are confident of being able to achieve a positive result.” Three-times World Cup finalists Netherlands also won their opening game 2-0, against Senegal, putting them and Ecuador in joint first on three points.
Ecuador are at their fourth World Cup, with their best performance so far a last 16 berth in 2006. Galindez had warm words for his team mates, who fought their way to Qatar in the fourth automatic berth from arguably the world’s toughest qualifying group.
He was especially impressed with midfielder Moises Caicedo, who has just turned 21 and is seen as a major emerging talent both in the Premier League and on the international stage. “When you watch him play, it looks like he’s been to four World Cups and is 35-years-old. He plays with such calm and confidence,” he said of the Ecuadorean playmaker.
“It’s not easy to do what he does. And he seems comfortable with the responsibility on him.”
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