Ecuador captain and top scorer Enner Valencia is still suffering from a minor knee sprain ahead of his side’s Group A game with the Netherlands, from which the South Americans could advance to the second round to the second time only. The 33-year-old limped off after scoring twice in Ecuador’s opening win against Qatar, raising question marks over his availability against the Dutch on Friday.
“We took pictures yesterday. Nothing serious came to light. It was a slight sprain,” team doctor Camilo Chiquito told reporters in an update. “It’s up to him how the situation develops in the next few days in the gym and on the pitch.” Coach Gustavo Alfaro said he expected the veteran striker to play but fans are worried and the national team’s website showed a photo of Valencia with the caption: ‘Keep calm’ .
Goalkeeper Hernan Galindez said Ecuador were happy to control their own destiny after what turned out to be a comfortable 2-0 win over the tournament hosts. “We have the great possibility of not depending on anyone. After beating Qatar, we only depend on ourselves,” he told reporters at the same press conference in Qatar.
“We are focused on the job and understand that we have a very difficult game ahead on Friday, but we are confident that we can get a positive result.” The Netherlands, three-time World Cup finalists, also won their opener 2-0 against Senegal, putting them and Ecuador ahead with three points.
Ecuador are in their fourth World Cup, with their best performance to date a 16th-place finish in 2006. Galindez had warm words for his teammates, who fought their way to Qatar in the automatic fourth-place finish in the toughest qualifying group in the world.
He was particularly impressed with midfielder Moises Caicedo, who just turned 21 and is seen as a major emerging talent both in the Premier League and internationally. “When you watch him play, it looks like he’s been to four World Cups and he’s 35. He plays with so much composure and confidence,” he said of the playmaker. Ecuadorian.
“It’s not easy doing what he does. And he seems comfortable with the responsibility that comes with it.”
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