Manchester United’s sole Ecuadorian representative in Brazil over the coming weeks is of course Antonio Valencia. Despite him being the solitary member, the scrutiny on his shoulders has just been intensified with his infamous (some might say heroic) strangling of Raheem Sterling.
United 1-0 Liverpool.
He let his country down, but immediately apologised for his actions, especially as he is the Ecuadorian captain, he took leading from the front to new extremes.
Stretty News got the thoughts of Paulo Freitas, a South American football expert, who has previously given SN exclusive insight in this field. We discussed Ecuador’s chances in Brazil, plus got some reaction to Valencia’s red card against England, which has caused quite a furore.
1) Realistically, how far can Ecuador go in the tournament?
The Ecuadorian team have an impressive attack with Jefferson Montero, Felipe Caicedo and Antonio Valencia, but lack in defense, and in fact Frickson Erazo is just a bench warmer at Flamengo, despite being at Ecuador’s national team. Ecuador are likely to try a counterattacking approach in order to make full use of the speed of their attacking players.
The Ecuadorians are in what for them is likely to be a tough group though, I expect them to fight for second place with Switzerland, if they advance, they will most likely face Argentina in the round of 16, so they are not likely to reach farther than that.
2) Ecuador are led by United’s Antonio Valencia, is he a good choice for captain and will he be looking to prove a point to Louis Van Gaal, after a couple of mixed years at United?
The main concern is the fact he is the youngest Ecuadorian captain ever in a World Cup, as previous captains Alex Aguinaga and Iván Hurtado were both over 30 years old. However, Antonio Valencia is regarded as a good ambassador for Ecuadorian football and certainly looking to impress Van Gaal after what was for him a frustrating period with Moyes in charge of Man United.
3) Ecuador managed to draw 2-2 with England in the recent friendly, Valencia got sent off for violent conduct, what has the reaction been to the red card, will it jeopardise his place in the starting eleven? He has since apologised for his actions.
The general reaction was that the red card was unfair and people generally sympathized with Antonio Valencia. As one of the team’s main star along with Caicedo, the red card is unlikely to jeopardise his place in the starting eleven, Ecuador intend to play another friendly in Porto Alegre before the World Cup in order to ‘clean’ him before the World Cup.
4) Ecuador and the whole football world were truly saddened by the passing of Chucho Benitez, he was known to be like a brother to Antonio Valencia. Is Valencia using his memory and the sadness to inspire Ecuador to success, did the tragic events make the side even closer, inspired by his memory?
The memory of Chucho Benítez is very important for both Valencia and Ecuador as well, Antonio Valencia has a tattoo of Benítez while the Ecuadorian national team originally planned to pay tribute to him having no player wear his number 11. FIFA unfortunately did not allow it. Several Ecuadorian players such as Segundo Castillo have stated they are dedicating this World Cup to him and will do their best to honour his memory.
5) A few may not know any Ecuador players besides Antonio Valencia, who else do we need to keep an eye on in the tournament?
Enner Valencia, the 25-year old striker was originally a midfielder with a playmaking role, but after arriving in Mexico, Pachuca’s manager Enrique Meza turned him into a striker and he quickly became one of the most prolific players in the league.
Another interesting player is 24-year old left-winger Fidel Martínez, who was once labeled the ‘Ecuadorian Neymar. He is fast, skilful and capable of dealing with a physical game, and like Enner Valencia, he plays in Mexico, for Tijuana.
Stretty News would like to thank Paulo for providing us with yet more fantastic analysis.
If you are not already following Paulo, you can follow his Twitter feed – @Cynegeticus