Following the tragic death of Christian Benitez, Antonio Valencia’s role of Ecuador captain has become even more of vital importance. If Ecuador are going to have any success in Brazil this Summer, Valencia needs to be at the top of his game.
Ecuador have been drawn into Group E and are joined by Switzerland, Honduras and one time World Cup winners France.
Group E is one of the most unpredictable groups this season. Although many consider France the strongest team, Switzerland have the highest ranking of the four at the time of writing (7th) while France are ranked 19th, Ecuador 23rd and Honduras 36th.
What works in Ecuador’s favour is they play Switzerland and then Honduras before France so they have a good chance to get some early points on the board.
If Ecuador are going to have any realistic chance of qualifying from their group and even perhaps progressing even further, Antonio Valencia will be key to any success.
The Manchester United winger/full back has been an ever present for the faltering Red Devils this season. Despite the Premier League outfit performing well below expectations, Valencia has produced some decent performances in a red shirt.
For a footballing nation as small as Ecuador, having a player such as Valencia who plays for one of the world’s biggest football clubs, he is a key figure in the dressing room.
Following his 2009 move from Wigan, Valencia has won a number of trophies. Two Premier League titles, one League Cup and two Community Shields along with reaching the Champions League final on one occasion.
Ecuador are not renown for having footballers making a big impact on what is often described as the world’s best league. Other Ecuadorians to feature in the Premiership include Felipe Caicedo who flopped at Valencia’s club rivals Manchester City, the late Christian Benitez who featured for Birmingham and Segundo Castillo who had a short spell at Everton. Caicedo and Castillo will also be looking to impress in Brazil.
The Tri Colour dressing room will look to Valencia’s vast experience for inspiration as Ecuador look to qualify from their group in Brazil. If they do so, it would be only the second time in their history having reached the last 16 in Germany 2006.