5 Memorable Moments for Antonio Valencia and Ecuador

Scott Rom@@R_o_MFeatured ColumnistJune 9, 2014

5 Memorable Moments for Antonio Valencia and Ecuador

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    Antonio Valencia has represented his country 71 times and has scored eight goals, including strikes against the likes of Germany, Uruguay and Portugal.

    Last week, we saw the Manchester United striker attack Raheem Sterling in a friendly against England, which certainly has to go down as one of his more memorable moments when playing for Ecuador.

    But when looking back on his international career, which other occasions will likely stand out for Valencia?

Shining for the U-20s: 2004

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    Valencia scored 17 goals in 23 games for the Ecuador U-20 side, whilst still playing for the club side he had started his career with, El Nacional.

    His performances for the U-20s ensured it wasn't long before he was given his first opportunity with the senior team.

Scoring Twice on His Debut: 2005

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    Valencia made his debut against Paraguay when he was 20 years old. It was a World Cup qualifying game and his side went 2-0 down.

    Valencia pulled one goal back, before Ecuador went on to equalise and then take the lead. He then scored their fourth in what became a 5-2 win.

Best Youngster at the World Cup Shortlist: 2006

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    Valencia played in all of Ecuador's matches at the 2006 World Cup and was one of the six players to be shortlisted for the Best Young Player Award.

    Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Lukas Podolski and Cesc Fabregas were amongst the other players named, although it was Valencia who won the online vote, as reported by the BBC. However, after combining the vote with a judging panel, Podolski won the award.

    Ecuador finished second in the group, behind Germany, after winning two of their three games. They were knocked out by England in the round of 16 thanks to a goal from David Beckham.

Ecuador Captain: 2013

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    Following the death of his close friend Christian Benitez, also known as Chucho, Valencia was made the captain of Ecuador.

    Reinaldo Rueda, Ecuador's manager, felt it was necessary to change the captain to Valencia as he was such a popular member of the squad, as Chucho had been, and hoped that it could unite the players.

    Valencia and Chucho were incredibly close, with the United winger marking the death with a tattoo dedicated to his team-mate, so Rueda believed Valencia was a suitable candidate for the captaincy.

Strangling Sterling: 2014

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    During Ecuador's 2-2 draw with England last week, Valencia was sent off for strangling Raheem Sterling. The youngster, who is a club rival to Valencia in the Premier League, was guilty of an awful challenge in the second half which Valencia, fortunately, was able to jump out of the way of. Had Valencia's foot been planted when the studs of Sterling made contact, the United winger could have missed the World Cup, at the very least.

    In response to this challenge, which Sterling was shown a red card for, Valencia tried to strangle the player. This retaliation meant he too was sent off.

    The Telegraph reported that Valencia revealed he had apologised to his team-mates after the game.

    I am sorry for the fight with Sterling. I apologised to the team after the match and the coach. When [Sterling] tackled me I thought about Segundo Castillo. He nearly missed the World Cup because of injury and I feared I would too, but thankfully I am okay.