Striker contest looming as Dutch face Ecuador at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) – The rivalry between Ecuador striker Enner Valencia and Netherlands forward Memphis Depay could help decide who wins the World Cup. . on Friday.

Both strikers have different styles – Valencia is more powerful and direct, Depay more and more skilful – but are equally important to each other. A win for either team would take them to six points and put them at the top of Group A with a game to play.

Valencia scored two goals in the first half after beating tournament hosts Qatar 2-0 in the opening match of the tournament, taking his international tally to 37 and extending his record as La Tri’s top goalscorer.

Although he withdrew from Qatar after a knock to the head, coach Gustavo Alfaro said that “Enner will play against the Netherlands, there’s no doubt about that.”

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Returning from injury, Depay came on in the second half to spark the attack as the Dutch scored two late goals to beat Senegal 2-0.

Although Depay may be determined again, he hopes coach Louis van Gaal will make room for him.

However, Depay, 28, played a key role in helping his country qualify, scoring 12 goals and providing six assists. No other European player had more goals and assists.

“He is a player who can make a difference,” Van Gaal said. “He wants to play, but I have to assess his form.”

Depay added motivation to start as he needs another goal to reach 43 international goals.

That would push him alongside former striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – nicknamed “The Hunter” for his ruthless finishing – on the club’s all-time leading scorer list. national. Depay is not far from Robin van Persie’s record, 50 years old.

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The first two of Depay’s international goals came at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where Valencia also scored twice during the tournament. Neither played in the last World Cup as their country failed to qualify.

Ahead of this World Cup, their faces are very different.

Valencia has been excellent with 13 goals in 12 league games for Turkish side Fenerbahce. But Depay’s problem kept him out for two months, and he played just three games for Spanish league leaders Barcelona before traveling to Qatar.

If Depay is not fit enough to start the game at the Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan, Van Gaal is confident he can rely on Cody Gakpo, who scored against Senegal with his third goal of the year with the Oranje.

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He has done well for PSV Eindhoven this season with 13 goals in 24 games.

“He knows the ball and is very smart,” Van Gaal said.

Van Gaal, 71, said before the tournament that he believed his side could win the World Cup after losing three finals. But he was hoping for a better performance on Friday than in the opening win.

“We can only improve,” he said.

Netherlands goalkeeper Andries Noppert, who plays for Dutch team Heerenveen, made three saves against Senegal in his international match.

No doubt he will be called into action again if Enner is on form.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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