Ecuador has pinned its World Cup aspirations on 20-year-old Antonio Valencia. DW-WORLD.DE spoke to the midfielder about his dreams and his expectations for the World Cup.
Valencia (r.) and his teammates have already arrived in Germany for the World Cup
DW-WORLD.DE: When Ecuador coach Luis Fernando Suarez is asked which of his team's players will play a decisive role at the World Cup, he brings up your name.
Antonio Valencia: Seriously? Him saying something like that is huge motivation for me. It animates me to work more and harder, to exert myself more every day. The World Cup is soccer's biggest showcase.
What do you have planned for the World Cup?
I will do my best. I wake up every day with the will to present myself in top form at the World Cup. I'm training hard for it. My goal is to show the world my talent.
What do you want to achieve at the World Cup?
Above all, to ensure a fixed place in my club, Villareal. I would be satisfied with that.
How does your experience in the Spanish league benefit Ecuador's national team?
The experience has helped me, us, very much. The chance to play with people like Riquelme in Villareal or other soccer greats has made me more mature as a soccer player. I've learned a lot from it.
Valencia joined Villereal last year
Your coach has always stressed that Ecuador's strength lays in the team's closeness. Are you also so close off the soccer pitch?
The fact that we view ourselves as a compact unit is a great feeling, which is nothing new. We've felt this way for years. It started with our former coach, Dario Gomez. We learned from him how important our friendship is on and off the pitch. Coach Suarez assumed this approach and carried on with it. We stick together, that's our capital.
There's one thing, however, that Ecuador can't fall back on: international experience.
Now we will play in a World Cup in which Ecuador's players can show their abilities. There, one or two players will manage to make a step towards international soccer. We will gain places in Spanish or Italian soccer clubs and lessen the lack of international experience.
What can be expected of Ecuador at the World Cup?
Personally, I have high expectations. Especially that the team does everything it can to represent our country with dignity -- as we have done in the past.
What do you think of your group opponent Germany?
Ecuador sees Germany as complicated
We know Germany is a complicated opponent whose game is very strong, fast and explosive. We Ecuadorians must be aware that we will play in a World Cup and prepare for and complete the tournament appropriately. We have to be able to draw on our best performance at the World Cup, not just against Germany.
What do you think of the Polish team?
We have played Poland before. It didn't go very well then, but it will be different at the World Cup. We will prepare ourselves better. Against Poland we have to keep the ball flat, play good combinations, attack quickly and control the flanks. That's how we could make it hard for them.
What about your third opponent in the preliminaries, Costa Rica?
We respect Costa Rica, as we do all of the other teams. They will be at the World Cup, because they earned it.
How far will Ecuador make it at the World Cup?
It depends on how well we work. If we continue playing as we have so far we will certainly make it quite far.
Do you have a message for Ecuador's fans?
You must continue to support us. Then you can expect great things from Ecuador.