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Enner Valencia – A veteran for the history books

With a thick ice pack on his right knee, Enner Valencia sat on the substitutes' bench.

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Enner Valencia – A veteran for the history books

With a thick ice pack on his right knee, Enner Valencia sat on the substitutes' bench. One could certainly worry about the striker, who had just been carried off the field on a stretcher. He, the hero of his country, the top scorer at the Winter World Cup, was in danger of missing out for a longer period of time. But in the end his action was probably good for one thing: to take a little time off the clock and keep the 1-1 draw against the Netherlands.

Valencia is something of the offensive life insurance in Ecuador's selection. Not only did he score twice in the 2-0 win in the opening game against hosts Qatar, who have since been eliminated. After that, he also scored the important 1-1 draw against the Dutch, who were rated much higher. With three goals, he has even left such international stars as Olivier Giroud (France), Richarlison (Brazil) and Bukayo Saka (England) behind in the current World Cup rankings - even if most of them only made it to the desert World Cup in were used.

And it can be described as curious that the beefy attacker also scored all three tournament goals in Ecuador's last World Cup participation in 2014 in Brazil. “That's just great. I'm enjoying it very much," said Valencia after the draw against "Oranje".

The 33-year-old star has already achieved something historic. So far, in the long list of global football tournaments, there have only been three players who have also scored six times in a row for their country in a world tournament: Eusebio for Portugal in 1966, Italy's Paolo Rossi in 1982 and Russia's Oleg Salenko in 1994. Should Valencia also win in the last group game next Tuesday (4 p.m., live ticker on against African champions Senegal, he alone holds the record.

Late on Friday evening, Valencia team-mate Robert Arboleda made it clear that despite the injury in the duel with the Dutch, it should be enough for a game: "It won't be that bad," said the defender. "He's okay. He took a hit, but nothing more.”

They know they'll need him in the final group game to qualify for their first knockout round since 2006. The country's record goalscorer, who has struck 38 times in 76 games, is considered an irreplaceable force in coach Gustavo Alfaro's squad. "Valencia work so hard and we are so happy to have such a captain," he said after the game against the Netherlands.

While things have been going well for the only 1.77 tall attacker in the national team since his debut ten years ago, he had to go through one or the other trough at his club stations. In 2014, after his strong performance at the World Cup, he moved to Europe from the Mexican club CF Pachuca: West Ham United paid the deal 15 million euros, Valencia received a five-year contract. But things were not going well at the new club, and a season on loan at Everton FC was not crowned with success either. In total, the striker only scored eleven goals in 75 Premier League games.

In June 2017, Valencia moved back to Mexico, this time to UANL Tigres. With eight goals, he became the top scorer in the CONCACAF Champions League in 2019 – the premier football league in North and Central America. This was followed by another move to Europe, this time to Fenerbahçe Istanbul. There he has 32 goals in 71 games so far: A good rate, which he now also confirms at the World Cup. "He's had a tough time. He was questioned in Ecuador but now we'll see what he can give us," explained coach Alfaro.

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