Ecuador prepares for crucial World Cup game with Senegal with an eye on Enner Valencia’s status

Nov 27, 2022 | 5 comments

Following Friday’s 1-1 tie with the Netherlands in World Cup competition, the biggest question for coach Gustavo Alfaro is whether star striker Enner Valencia will be healthy for Tuesday’s game against Senegal. Valencia, who has scored all three of Ecuador’s goals in its first two games, was carried off the field on a stretcher in the second half of Friday’s game with a knee injury.

Ecuador celebrates its second half goal against the Netherlands on Friday.

To advance from the group stage of competition, Ecuador needs either a victory or a tie with Senegal, which suffered a loss to the Netherlands in its first game and defeated Qatar in its second.

“The news so far with Enner is positive but we may not know his full status until game time on Tuesday,” Alfaro said Saturday. “He is resting and receiving therapy but he is able to move around with only minor discomfort and the doctors say the injury is a bruise, although it is a serious one.”

Alfaro had his team on the practice pitch early Saturday to prepare for the crucial game with Senegal. “We must maintain our focus and make certain we are fully prepared at game time Tuesday,” he said.

One problem the team faced in its preparations was the heat. The temperature on the outside practice field reached 34 degrees (93 F.) by late morning Saturday and players were forced to take frequent water breaks. Noting that the heat was something the team did not experience in Ecuador, Alfaro said hydration was essential during practice. Although all World Cup games are played in air conditioned stadiums in Qatar, practice fields are outside.

Alfaro said that the team needed to put Friday’s game behind it and forget the controversy over its disallowed goal late in the first half. Many analysts believe the off-sides ruling denying Ecuador the goal was an error and that the two teams should have been tied at halftime. Ecuador scored at the five-minute mark in the second period to even the score at 1-1, which held through the remainder of the game.

The media and Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal agreed that Ecuador was the better team Friday. “They dominated play, had more shots on goal so we are lucky to have escaped with a draw,” Van Gaal said.

In comments following the match, Alfaro said he was pleased with the team’s effort. “The Netherlands is one of the favorites to win the event and we played well enough to defeat them,” he said. “Most people gave us little chance of winning or drawing so we must be satisfied with the result.”

In world football rankings, the Netherlands is 8th while Ecuador is 44th.