World Cup top scorer Enner Valencia set to face Senegal after miracle recovery… and it could be bad news for England

ENNER VALENCIA has stunned World Cup doctors and is poised to start Ecuador’s crunch clash versus Senegal.

The skipper was carted off in the last match on a stretcher amid fears of a serious knee injury.

ReutersEnner Valencia is hoping to lead his team out again[/caption]

But the tournament’s joint-top scorer has amazed team medics and is optimistic of facing Senegal in the winner-takes-all match.

The Netherlands are odds on to win Group A which means whoever finishes behind them could well end up playing England in the last 16.

Ex-West Ham striker Valencia has been undergoing intensive treatment since aggravating a knock in his country’s second game against the Dutch.

And he was last seen being carried off with a huge ice pack on the affected area.

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Ecuador coach Gustavo Alfaro said: “Enner Valencia unfortunately had a knee sprain in the first match. Hopefully the ligaments are ok and according to medical reports yes we have a knee sprain.

“But he has a big heart and wants to be in every battle. We have the leadership from our captain and that is essential, something we always need.

“He is an extraordinary player, someone I always pick and even if he is not ready for the start, I have confidence he will be there to play some part.

“He is feisty and I hope he will be able to play more matches for us.”


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Valencia, 33, scored the first goal of the tournament with a penalty against Qatar. He has three altogether and is level with France superstar Kylian Mbappe in the race for the Golden Boot.

Ecuador have only progressed once beyond the group stage and never into the quarter finals.

South American football is dominated by the twin giants of Brazil and Argentina. A duopoly that Ecuador’s Argentinian coach insists is changing.

Alfaro said: “The World Cup so far has been beautiful. There was once a marked difference between the favourites and the rest. Suddenly you are seeing evenly matched games. This is how growth works.

“I really hope this trophy will go to a South American team. We are ready to fight. We are feisty.

“We have weapons. Our excitement, our talents. Our country has so many things pushing us forwards and we will bring our A game. We will give it all on the pitch and that is what we are doing. I am really happy with everything my team is doing.”

Ecuador have their fate in their own hands. Even a draw against the African champions will see them through.

They played England at the World Cup in Germany 2006. A David Bekcham free kick made the difference, sending the South Americans home.

They could yet top Group A if they beat Holland’s results against abject hosts Qatar as the first stage draws to a close.

Senegal have struggled in the absence of captain and recently-departed Liverpool forward Sadio Mane.

Boss, ex Birmingham and Portsmouth midfielder Aliou Cisse does not want to put too much pressure on his players but regards this World Cup as a barometer for African football too.

Then he said: “Football isn’t war. Nobody will die in battle. I hope not anyway. But it is an important game for my generation. We are playing extraordinary football and want to continue this adventure. 

“We won’t be able to take our eyes off the ball. We know we can score, so can they. I know my boys will be focused tomorrow.

“Not going to the last 16 would be a hard pill to swallow.”

Possible Ecuador line-up: Galindez; Porozo, Torres, Hincapie; Preciado, Mendez, Caicedo, Estupinan, Plata, Valencia; Estrada.

Possible Senegal line-up: Mendy; Sabaly, Koulibaly, Diallo, Jakobs; Sarr, Mendy, Gueye, Diatta; Dia, Diedhiou.

APEcuador’s Enner Valencia was taken off injured in the last game[/caption]

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