DOHA, Qatar — The contest between Ecuador striker Enner Valencia and Netherlands forward Memphis Depay could help decide who wins their match at the World Cup on Friday.
The two forwards have different styles — Valencia is more powerful and direct, Depay more subtle and skilled — but are equally important to their sides. A win for either team would move it onto six points and put it in command of Group A with one game to play.
Valencia scored both of his side’s goals in the first half when it beat tournament host Qatar 2-0 in the tournament’s opening game, taking his international tally to 37 and extending his record as La Tri’s all-time leading scorer.
Although he came off against Qatar after taking a knock to his knee, coach Gustavo Alfaro says “Enner will play against the Netherlands, there is no doubt about that.”
Returning from a nagging hamstring 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 could again be decisive off the bench, he’ll be hoping coach Louis van Gaal gives him a starting place.
After all, the 28-year-old Depay played a massive part in helping his nation qualify, netting 12 goals and six assists. No other European player had more goals and assists combined.
“He is a player who can make the difference,” Van Gaal said. “He will want to play, but I have to assess his form.”
Depay has added incentive to start because he needs one more goal to reach 43 international goals.
That would move him one past striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar — nicknamed “The Hunter” for his ruthless finishing — on the list of all-time leading scorers for the national team. Depay is not far away from Robin van Persie’s record of 50.
The first two of Depay’s international goals came at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where Valencia also netted twice during the competition. Neither forward played at the last World Cup because their nations failed to qualify.
Heading into this World Cup, their club forms have differed vastly.
Valencia has been in great form with 13 goals in 12 league games for Turkish side Fenerbahce. But Depay’s thigh problem kept him out for two months, and he played only three games for Spanish league leader Barcelona before heading to Qatar.