Enner Valencia did not emerge unscathed from the World Cup opener between Ecuador and Qatar (2-0). The aggressor suffers from a knee and an ankle. Valencia were substituted in the 77th minute of the match at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor. “It’s not good now after the game,” he said. “But I hope to be there again on Friday against the Netherlands.”

Valencia, 33, was the big man in the opener with two goals. The Turkish club Fenerbahçe striker scored in the 16th minute with a negligent penalty kick and in the 31st minute with a fine header. “It’s always been my dream to score in a World Cup opener,” he said.

Valencia played for West Ham United and Everton in the Premier League from 2014 to 2017 before joining Mexican club Tigers. “After that, there was a period when people started to doubt him,” Ecuadorian national coach Gustavo Alfaro said. “But we just saw how important he is for us. He just has to be there against the Netherlands. We need him.”

Valencia have been in excellent form all season. He has already scored thirteen times for Fenerbahçe in recent months. The striker passed the Qatar keeper three times but his first goal was ruled out for offside. Had that not happened, he would now have the fastest opening goal of a World Cup opener to his name.

Orange starts the World Cup on Monday with a match against Senegal. The African champion is missing injured star player Sadio Mané, who has been out for months after surgery.

PA