Written by Michael Reintgen in 2013
Updated and Edited by Maddie Keyes in 2015
Forward/Winger, #16, 28 Years Old
Luis Antonio Valencia Mosquera was born August 4th, 1985, in Lago Agrio, Ecuador. As a child, Valencia helped his mother sell drinks outside his local club’s stadium and also collected bottles for his father to sell at bottle deposits . In between these activities, Valencia could be found playing barefoot on a field right next to his home. He was signed at the early age of 11 to a local sporting academy in Sucumbíos where he spent 4 years training and developing, still on very shoddy pitches . When Valencia was 16, he left for Quito, the capital of Ecuador, to play for the club El National as a midfielder on a salary of 50 dollars a month. His skills quickly gained him attention from bigger clubs, and after 2 years Spanish side Villarreal signed him.
At Villarreal, Valencia failed to earn a spot in the first team and was loaned out to Spanish second-division team Recreativo de Huelva. He played very well there and was instrumental in gaining the side promotion to the top flight of Spanish football . After his spell at Recreativo, he was again loaned out to Wigan Athletic, an English side in the premier league. Wigan took a liking to Valencia, and after his first year on loan they managed to get him for an additional year, before eventually signing him to the team in the winter of 2008. His exploits on the field caught the eye of Real Madrid, but Valencia turned down the offer, claiming that he was happy at Wigan . The following summer, however, Valencia packed up his bags and accepted a transfer to Manchester United. Valencia would become a staple in the Manchester United sides to come, even scoring in his debut preseason game against Boca Juniors. Valencia became the first Ecuadorian to win the premier league with Manchester United in 2011.
Valencia is married to wife Zoila, and the two have a daughter, Domenica, born in 2006 during the world cup finals . His older brother, Éder, is also a professional footballer who plays for Independiente José Terán in Ecuador.
Previous involvement with the National team
In 2004, while playing for El Nacional, Valencia received his call up to the Ecuador U20 national side. Valencia’s talent shined as he scored 17 goals in 23 matches.  In 2005, he gained his international debut for Ecuador’s national side playing against Paraguay in a World Cup qualifier and scored two goals to mark the occasion. During the 2006 World Cup, Valencia featured in all of Ecuador’s games and was nominated for FIFA’s ideal 11, an honor which chooses the best players in their respective positions out of all the participants in the World Cup .
In the 2007 Copa America, Valencia scored the first goal for Ecuador vs Chile, though they eventually lost 3-2. Ecuador did not fare too well in this tournament, and finished bottom of their group. The bad string of form then continued as Ecuador missed out on qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. His influence in the 2011 Copa America was very limited. He was forced off the field with a sprained left ankle and did not return for the rest of the tournament. 
Going into Brazil 2014
Valencia fills the classic winger position for Ecuador . He is vital in spreading the play to wide areas, which helps give space to midfielders as well as providing an outlet for players under pressure. Once in possession of the ball, it is very difficult to take it off Valencia. He possesses the power needed to shield opponents off the ball, a trait that can be vital for slowing down the pace of play and allowing teammates to get into supporting positions. Valencia’s talents are most apparent when he has space to maneuver. He is an incredibly quick player and has an acceleration that is only matched by a few other players in the game. Valencia is deadly when he switches gears into high speed, especially from a standstill. He uses these talents to leave defenders in his wake, and once he gets to the by-line he consistently provides good service to teammates in the box. While none would describe Valencia as a prolific goal-scorer, he is an excellent creator of opportunities and is often the man to cause the first break in the defense that opens up the field for the entire team. He is not a very loud and vocal player, but he leads by example on the pitch with his work effort and his never-say-die attitude.
If Valencia has any weaknesses, it’s that he has a very quite and somewhat shy nature. He isn’t really the type of player to get his teammates motivated with a pregame speech or to yell at his teammates when they need to pick up the pace of play.
The expectations for Ecuador at the 2014 World Cup will not be sky high. They have only qualified for 3 World Cups in total, making appearances in 2002, 2006, and the upcoming 2014 World Cup. Their best finish was in the 2006 World Cup, in which they made it out of the group stages but were eliminated by England in the first round of the knockout stages. They are also one of only 3 South American teams never to win the Copa America title. 
The expectations and pressure on Valencia will not be astronomically high, either. No one expects Valencia to score a goal a game and carry Ecuador into the latter stages of the knockout rounds. That’s just not the type of player he is. You can count on Valencia to work his tail off every game; creating opportunities and helping to control the ball when Ecuador is in possession, but for Ecuador to be successful the entire team will have to be in tip top form. Valencia can put in crosses until the sun goes down, but if no one is there to meet the ball on the other end, the efforts are fruitless.
A successful campaign for Valencia and Ecuador would entail getting out of the group stages. If they can improve upon their 2006 finish by making it into the quarterfinals, they would undoubtedly increase their reputation in the footballing world by a significant margin. If they didn’t make it out of their group, Ecuadorians would certainly be dejected, but by simply participating in the most prestigious competition worldwide the Ecuadorian national team can feel satisfied with themselves.
Why Watch Valencia?
Valencia is the #1 player to watch for on the Ecuadorian national team not only because he is a quick, strong, and exciting player, but also because he has by far the most experience playing at the highest level of football. He is the captain of his side, and he will be expected to keep momentum high when the team is playing well in addition to controlling and calming games down when they seem to be getting out of hand. Ecuador’s strategy will revolve around Valencia’s involvement, and you can safely bet that he will embrace his role as the central cog of the team. Look for Valencia to dictate Ecuador’s pace of play from deeper positions on the field, and expect him to be the catalyst that gets things going for his side in the final third. It will be key for Valencia to play with confidence by taking on defenders and even attempting the bold in order to show his teammates that they truly belong at the World Cup, and inspire them to believe that they can play with anyone in the world when they click.
Post-2014 World Cup Evaluation
Ecuador was in Group E alongside France, Switzerland, and Honduras . Finishing 1-1-1 and third in their group, it was disappointing that Ecuador did not make it out of group play, but they still made a fair showing in Brazil. Ecuador’s first game was played against Switzerland, which they lost 2-1. Antonio Valencia, not to be confused with Enner Valencia, was relatively invisible in this game, as predicted in this post before the games began. Antonio Valencia did show off his skill, however, with a brilliant cross in the 92′ that would have meant the equalizer if his teammate in the middle of the box would have been able to control the ball and fire off a good shot. In the second game, Ecuador won against Honduras 2-1, again with spectacular goals from Enner Valencia. Antonio Valencia did not participate as offensively in this match, but did cover a lot of ground with 10207 m to his name and a total of 21 completed passes.  Ecuador’s third game against France ended in a 0-0 draw. Although many good chances were had by both sides, neither was able to capitalize. A. Valencia himself again had a fairly quiet game, with 1 shot on goal, 20 completed passes, and a lesser distance of 6127 m covered.  What is to be learned about Valencia from the World Cup is that he is definitely more of a background player. However, his immense skill with crossing the ball and many years of club experience suggest his great merit to the Ecuadorian side.
Click here to return to the Players to Watch home page.
Continue on to Group E – France: Franck Ribéry
Group E – Honduras: Roger Espinoza
Group E – Switzerland: Gokhan Inler
Click here to return to the CONMEBOL page.
Learn about Ecuador’s National Anthem
How to cite this article: “Ecuador: Antonio Valencia” Written by Michael Reintgen (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp (accessed on (date)).
 Richard Tanner. ” Luis Antonio Valencia has the bottle for Manchester United” Written on Feb. 27th, 2010. Express UK. (Accessed on Nov. 17th 2013) http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/160739/Luis-Antonio-Valencia-has-the-bottle-for-Manchester-United
 Colin Young. “Antonio Valencia doesn’t wear the iconic No. 7 shirt but he has filled Christiano Ronaldo’s boots brilliantly.” Written Apr. 16th, 2010. Dailymail UK. (Accessed on Nov. 17th 2013) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1266352/Antonio-Valencia-doesnt-wear-iconic-No-7-shirt-filled-Cristiano-Ronaldos-boots-brilliantly.html
 Adrian Millerick. “Antonio Valencia Profile: 10 things you need to know about the Manchester United target.” Written Jun. 2nd, 2009. Mirror Football UK. (Accessed on Nov. 17th 2013) http://www.mirrorfootball.co.uk/news/Antonio-Valencia-profile-10-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-Manchester-United-target-article31890.html
 Ben Lyttleton. “Antonio Valencia: The boy for the backstreets of Ecuador who Manchester United want to be the new Ronaldo.” Written August 8th, 2009. Dailymail UK. (Accessed on Nov. 17th 2013) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1205185/Antonio-Valencia-The-boy-backstreets-Ecuador-Manchester-United-want-new-Ronaldo.html
 Nick Coppack. “Valencia injures ankle.” Written Apr. 7th, 2011. Manutd.com. (Accessed on Nov. 17th 2013) http://www.manutd.com/en/News-And-Features/Football-News/2011/Jul/Valencia-injured-for-Ecudaor.aspx
 Stewart Coggin. “Antonio Valencia”. Worldsoccer.about.com. (Accessed on Nov. 17th 2013) http://worldsoccer.about.com/od/players/p/Antonio-Valencia.htm
 “Fifa” Qualifiers: Ecuador. (Accessed on Nov. 17th 2013) http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/preliminaries/southamerica/teams/team=43927/profile.html
 “2014 FIFA World Cup™ – Groups – FIFA.com.” FIFA.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
 “FIFA World Cup 2014 – Switzerland vs. Ecuador (Highlights) Part 1 – ITV.”YouTube. YouTube, 31 Dec. 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
 “FIFA World Cup 2014 – Switzerland vs. Ecuador (Highlights) Part 2 – ITV.”YouTube. YouTube, 31 Dec. 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
 “2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ – Matches – FIFA.com.” FIFA.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
 “2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ – Matches – FIFA.com.” FIFA.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2015. <http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/matches/round=255931/match=300186515/statistics.html#nosticky>.
How to cite this page: “Players to Watch at the 2014 World Cup”, Written by Austin Ness, Michael Reintgen, Alessandro Barel Di Sant Albano, Jun Yoon, Avery Rape, Gilda Doria, Kavin Tamizhmani, Matt Berezo, Matt Ochs, Colby Leachman, and Ramsey Al-Khalil (2013), Soccer Politics Pages, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/world-cup-2014/players-to-watch-at-the-2014-world-cup/ (accessed on (date)).
I’d also like to edit this page if that’s okay!!