Curitiba: A little under a year after the sudden death of star striker Christian Benitez, Ecuador has unearthed a new goal-scoring dynamo.
Enner Valencia’s two calmly-taken goals that secured a 2-1 comeback win over Honduras on Friday took his tournament tally to three and put the team in second spot in a group that is likely to be won by France.
Valencia, who plays for Mexican club Pachuca, only consolidated his position in the Ecuador starting lineup after Benitez died from a heart problem last July.
“He hasn’t even celebrated a year with us, I think he’s grown a lot, improved a lot,” Ecuador’s coach Reinaldo Rueda said of his new star forward.
Valencia, who is no relation to his captain Antonio Valencia, hopes the “joy” that the win has generated will help inspire the team in their crucial final Group E match against France, which has tallied eight goals and conceded two in a pair of dominating wins.
“These are goals in the World Cup, this is something you dream of when you are a young kid and thank God that this dream has come true,” said Valencia. Ecuador have three points, level with Switzerland but ahead on goal difference after the Swiss lost 2-5 to France earlier Friday.
Should Honduras beat Switzerland, Ecuador would only need a draw against France to progress to the knock-out rounds of the World Cup for only the second time.
Ecuador: Alexander Dominguez; Juan Paredes, Jorge Guagua, Frickson Erazo; Walter Ayovi, Antonio Valencia, Cristhian Noboa, Oswaldo Minda (Carlos Gruezo 83), Jefferson Montero (Gabriel Achilier, 90); Felipe Caicedo (Edison Mendez, 82), Enner Valencia.
Honduras: Noel Valladares; Brayan Beckeles, Victor Bernardez, Maynor Figueroa; Emilio Izaguirre (Juan Carlos Garcia, 46), Jorge Claros, Luis Garrido (Mario Martinez, 71), Boniek Garcia (Marvin Chavez 83), Roger Espinoza; Jerry Bengtson, Carlo Costly.
Man of the Match: Enner Valencia
Referee: Benjamin Williams (Australia).