I met Enner Valencia eight years ago during a media event, and later wrote this.
It’s September 2014 and West Ham United are holding a press launch for Club London, a corporate hospitality programme for the move into the Olympic Stadium in summer 2016. As is customary at such events, first-team players are wheeled out to speak to the media. New striker Enner Valencia, fresh from scoring against Liverpool in a 3-1 victory, has a huddle of reporters around him, and he gives his reasons for choosing to become a Hammer.
“I knew about West Ham mainly from watching films,” he says through a translator. “And I know the supporters were very passionate.”
Two journalists ask the question at the same time. Valencia smiles, and the translator begins to look nervous. There is a pause.
“He means ‘Green Street,’” the translator says eventually. The room erupts with laughter. A corporate junket has gone wildly off-message. “Green Street,” or “Green Street Hooligans,” to use its American release title, is a film about a West Ham hooligan, named after the street on which the club’s current home Upton Park sits.
Jacob Steinberg was there, too.
Two more Ecuador changes to mention. Alan Franco and Carlos Gruezo come into midfield as Jackson Porozo is benched with Jhegson “Gary” Mendez is suspended.
Matt Dony zings in: “Pathe is playing? That’s news to me. Boom. I’m here all week, try the alcohol-free Budweiser.”
Have some Squires, too.
Enner Valencia does start for Ecuador, and has recovered sufficiently from a knee strain. He left the field injured towards the end of both games his team has played so far.
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse bolstered midfield with the inclusion of Pathe Ciss in place of striker Famara Diedhiou, leaving Boulaye Dia as the lone centre forward. Iliman Ndiaye and Ismaila Sarr provide width to an attack.
Ecuador: Galindez, Angelo Preciado, Torres, Hincapie, Estupinan, Franco, Gruezo, Caicedo, Plata, Estrada, Valencia. Subs: Arboleda, Cifuentes, Pacho, Ayrton Preciado, Ibarra, Ramirez, Arreaga, Mena, Sarmiento, Palacios, Dominguez, Reasco, Porozo, Rodriguez.
Senegal: Edouard Mendy, Sabaly, Koulibaly, Jakobs, Diallo, Ciss, Pape Gueye, Ndiaye, Idrissa Gueye, Ismaila Sarr, Dia. Subs: Seny Dieng, Formose Mendy, Cisse, Nampalys Mendy, Jackson, Moussa N’Diaye, Ballo-Toure, Diatta, Pape Sarr, Diedhiou, Ahmadou Dieng, Gomis, Name, Loum N’Diaye.
Beyond the football, the real story of this World Cup.
The Supreme Committee has always maintained there have been only three work-related fatalities and 37 non-work-related deaths among migrant workers at World Cup stadiums since construction for the tournament began in 2014.
In 2021 the Guardian published research that showed that more than 6,500 migrant workers from five countries – India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – had died in Qatar between the start of 2011, the year after country won the right to host the World Cup, and 2020.
And the final round of matches mean it’s time for the permutations.
The Netherlands: A draw will be enough against Qatar for Louis van Gaal’s men to qualify.
Ecuador: Ecuador need only a draw against Senegal to progress.
Senegal: Senegal must beat Ecuador to overhaul them.
Qatar are already eliminated, and there remains mathematical possibilities that Senegal could qualify with a draw, if the Netherlands suffer a heavy defeat against Qatar, but given the hosts’ performances so far in this tournament it seems unlikely this will come into the equation.
If both Ecuador and the Netherlands win, then the margin of victory and number of goals scored will determine who tops the group. If they both win by the same score on Tuesday, they will end up with identical records, and who finishes first will be determined by their disciplinary records. The Netherlands’ is currently better, with one yellow card to Ecuador’s three. If those end up level, Fifa draws lots to see who plays in which second round match.
There’s three other big games today at the World Cup, though one in particular catches the eye. Read and sign up for Football Daily.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“They get on that until 4am or 5am and watch all the great comments and enjoy all that sh1te, and it affects the sleep patterns. You’re up until 5am looking at good comments, and the same people backing you are the ones killing you the day after. So just get rid of it, don’t look at it” – Australia coach Graham Arnold is warning his players over the perils of social media disgraces before their flamin’ final group game against Denmark.
The Senegal coach, Aliou Cissé, also spoke at length.
I come from a country where we don’t like losing. We’re always hungry for that win. Not going to the round of 16 would be difficult to digest. We’re okay, we’re dealing with the pressure and stress. For me, it’s good stress.
We understand that winning will allow us to continue on the adventure and that’s exactly what we intend on doing. We know in 2018 we were looking for a draw when maybe the points would play in our favour but this isn’t the case tomorrow.
We’ve got a very strong and experienced team, they’re a well-oiled machine. We’ve got the right mixture of veterans and players, players who are used to these types of challenges.
On Enner Valencia: I hope he won’t be playing tomorrow. I don’t really know (Valencia) in particular but I can see that he is a warrior and he’ll want to be part of the team for a game like this.
I think the whole Ecuadorean team is a great team, they are very aggressive and they defend well. I know that my team will be focused tomorrow.
Ecuador coach Gustavo Alfaro spoke ahead of the match.
I’m convinced we’ve done everything we can, we’ve done our homework, hopefully tomorrow we will be strong and fortunate enough against Senegal, who are a great team, and hopefully we will go through, because we deserve it.
We respect the pecking order, but we don’t need to be fearful. We remain calm but that doesn’t mean we are overconfident, we are not triumphalist.
We have our own way of playing, we are not just thinking of getting a draw. We have to come to the pitch trying to win the game … We are creating our own pathway. We want to progress, we want to seal our passage, we want to play the best World Cup in Ecuadorean history.
And now we enter sudden death, the final round of group games. Ecuador with Enner Valencia one of the stars so far, need a draw to make it to the last 16. Senegal, who found a cutting edge in beating Qatar on Friday, must win to go through. Neither can rely on Qatar to do many favours for them in the concurrent Group A game being played. And this was always like to be the key game for both teams, with Ecuador’s draw with the Dutch lessening their jeopardy.
There’s been a worry over Valencia, the tournament’s leading scorer with three goals for Ecuador, as he took a whack in the 1-1 draw with the Dutch, while Aliou Cisse will be hoping Boulaye Dia and Famara Diedhiou can continue the scoring touch they found against the host nation in a 3-1 win.
Ecuador want to reach the last 16 for the second time, they reach there in 2006, losing to England. Senegal reached the quarter-finals in 2002, with Cissé at the heart of it all as captain. To follow on from that great team, and this year’s model – sans Sadio Mané – and their winning of the Africa Cup of Nations, only a win will do.
Kick-off at 3pm UK time / 6pm Mecca/Doha time. Join me.