Enner Valencia is making a habit of stealing the show at this World Cup, with his third goal in Qatar securing a draw against the Netherlands.
Following his double against Qatar in the opening match of the tournament, the Ecuadorian was able to equalise against the Dutch, capitalising on the setup by Pervis Estupinan to move ahead in the Golden Boot standings.
Valencia wasn’t done causing headlines either; after suffering a knee complaint against Qatar, he finished the match with a big icepack on his knee, subbed off in the 86th minute of the 1-1 draw against the Dutch.
Thankfully Ecuadorians were breathing a sigh of relief as their captain walked off unaided after the match, and will be hoping he plays on this tournament.
The 1-1 result not only means that, with Qatar’s loss to Senegal, the hosts are the first team to be eliminated from the tournament, but it also means that both sides are still in contention to move to the round of 16, requiring a point from their respective final matches to progress.
Ecuador was unlucky to not have an equaliser before the first half was even over, with Estupinan’s goal in stoppage time of the first half ruled offside with an Ecuadorian defender impeding the Dutch goalkeeper’s view.
But they were not to be denied in the second half, with Valencia’s heroics keeping them alive ahead of the match against Senegal with their campaign on the line.
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The attacking prowess of the Ecuadorians was on full display after Cody Gakpo’s goal in the first five minutes put them on the back foot, with them having plenty of opportunities to snatch victory in the second half.
Gakpo’s own prospects grew with his early strike, being the first player to score in two separate games in this World Cup, as well as the fastest goal in Qatar to date.
With Gakpo on the radar of several European clubs, including as a potential Cristiano Ronaldo replacement at Manchester United, he did his chances of a sizeable payday no harm with the January transfer window approaching.
The Netherlands attack was all but absent for the match after Gakpo’s goal, with the Dutch having just two shots on goal for the game, compared to Ecuador’s 15.
The Dutch defence, led by captain Virgil Van Dijk, was working overtime all game, blocking seven shots to nil, while Player of the Match Frenkie De Jong laid nine tackles for his side.
Although a little underwhelming against Ecuador, the Netherlands will be licking their lips with already eliminated Qatar to come, and the chance to hopefully finish their group stage in style and move to a potential knockout bout with one of England, Iran, Wales, or the USA.
For Ecuador, the situation is simple, a draw is all that is needed against Senegal on Wednesday, or the campaign is over. Valencia taking his spot will be crucial, but the Ecuadorians should fear no one from here.
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