In comic books, superheroes always make a dramatic entrance in the nick of time, showing up just when they are needed most. This is exactly what happened at Curitiba's Arena da Baixada, where the match between Honduras and Ecuador was deadlocked at a goal apiece and no further breakthroughs looked on the cards. That is when Enner Valencia, aka Superman, popped up for the second time and used his magic goalscoring powers to bag a vital winner for Ecuador, instantly making himself the toast of the town back home.
It was a dream night for the forward, who was a constant thorn in the Honduran defence and twice made his mark on the score-sheet. Valencia's brace not only earned Ecuador a 2-1 victory: coming off the back of his effort against Switzerland, it also meant that the 24-year-old is now his country's joint top scorer in FIFA World Cup™ history, alongside the iconic Agustin Delgado. Valencia blushes when FIFA.com asks him how he is feeling after pulling off his superhero act against Honduras.
"I don't consider myself a saviour or anything like that," he noted modestly. "The result was a reward for our efforts as a group, our commitment and fighting spirit out on the pitch. We knew we had to secure all three points to keep alive the dream we brought with us to Brazil."
The marksman has no qualms about admitting his pride at equaling the tally of World Cup goals registered by Tin Delgado, a player he looked up to: "I'm delighted to have reached this mark. I played with Tin at Emelec; he gave me a lot of advice when I was just starting out, so I'm really thrilled to be up there alongside him."
Cows and confidence
The Pachuca sharpshooter is understandably on cloud nine right now, but his road there was a long one. As a child growing up in San Lorenzo, in the Esmeralda province of Ecuador, he used to help his dad milk cows, all the while yearning for a chance to make a name for himself on the pitch. "This is something I've dreamed about since I was a kid, when I was out in the countryside selling milk to buy football boots. Luckily for me, now it's coming true."
Superman is in no doubt as to which of his two goals meant more to him: "Scoring a brace at a World Cup is an amazing feeling, but I'd have to go with the second one because of its importance. The match was on a knife-edge and the goal came at just the right time. Words can't express how I felt when I got my head to the ball and realised it was going in. I couldn't stop screaming, I had such a rush of emotion."
The win was Ecuador's first at Brazil 2014 and puts La Tri in with a good shot of making it through to the Round of 16 ahead of their last Group E fixture against table-topping France, one of the revelations of the tournament so far. "We know what France are all about. They are in great form and we will have to play better than ever to beat them. We are brimming with self-confidence though, and this victory is going to help us to be absolutely buzzing going into the game."
Valencia breaks into one of his trademark infectious smiles as he utters this last sentence and he and his team-mates have plenty to smile about. Conscious as they are of the difficulty of their next challenge, Ecuador can rest assured that when the going gets tough, their crusader without a cape will swoop in to rescue them.