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Iban Salvador Edu, the pink force of Equatorial Guinea

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Modest Spanish second division player, Equatorial Guinean Iban Salvador Edu is one of the sensations of CAN-2022. Widely recognizable with his pink hair, the striker carried his national team to the knockout stages.

With his pink hair, Iban Salvador Edu does not go unnoticed on a football field. But it is above all through his qualities as an attacker that the player of the Equatorial Guinea made an impression during the group stage. Only player elected twice man of the match of the CAN during this edition, he largely contributed to his team’s qualification for the round of 16, which they will play on Wednesday, January 26, against Mali.

Against all odds, the Nzalang Nacional finished second in Group E after a defeat against Ivory Coast and two wins against Algeria and sierra leone. Iban Salvador Edu was decisive in both wins. His harassment of the referee and the Fennecs discouraged the Greens and his assist for Pablo Ganet defeated the Étoiles du Leone.

“We are not afraid of anyone”

The new national hero is very proud that his team has emerged “from the group of death”, he tells Spanish RTVE, with Côte d’Ivoire and ahead of Algeria. “‘The defending champion’ has superior players, stronger individuals, but we won as a team,” he said. “We are not afraid of anyone”, also insisted Iban Salvador before facing Mali “with our weapons”.

While he was until then an anonymous player in the Spanish second division in Fuenlabrada, the 26-year-old footballer finally reveals himself to the face of the world. His nickname, “El Picaro”, or “The Thief”, or “The Rascal”, pays homage to the well-felt vice of the man with tattooed hands and a fairly low center of gravity (1.73 m).

The superb course of his selection owes him a lot, although his last two seasons have been truncated by injuries – sprained ankle and knee, hamstring injury. “We don’t even know what position he plays in… Left midfielder, defender…”, says admiringly to AFP Hamari Traoré, captain of Mali, about his future opponent.

“But it’s not just him”, adds the Rennais, “Equatorial Guinea a very good team, a very strong collective, very good block. They play like a South American team, defend together and attack together”.

Most Equatorial Guineans were educated in Spain. Iban Salvador was himself born in this country in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, where he made his football debut. He then traveled around a lot in Spanish clubs, between Valencia, Valladolid, Murcia, Leon, the reserve of Celta Vigo and Fuenlabrada, where he is on contract until 2023. “[En Afrique], football is quite different from European football. There is more contact, the game is harder. I’m used to it, in the second division”, explains the player.

A player who goes into contact

Hardened in Liga B, “El Picaro” was the subject of criticism, in February 2021, targeting his tendency to exaggerate and simulate falls in contact with his opponents. But an irrefutable fact qualifies this ability to dive: in February 2021, the midfielder was the player who had suffered the most faults, Spanish D1 and D2 combined, with 84 faults received in 24 matches, i.e. one fault every 16 minutes.

He had also caused 22 cards. Figures higher than those of Nabil Fekir or Lionel Messi, when the latter was still playing in La Liga. “What Iban is going through is dizzying…”, reacted his former coach, José Ramon Sandoval, at the start of 2021. “He is suffering from many faults, it is total persecution. We are starting to worry. fouls happen when he doesn’t even have the ball and off-time”.

The coach of the club from the suburbs of Madrid described “a big competitive character”, and “all the mistakes he suffers often give us goalscoring opportunities”.

According to the Madrid sports daily As (in an article from January 2021), Iban Salvador “is one of the players with the most technical qualities and ‘toque’ in the Fuenlabrada squad. He knows how to dribble. His last pass is always good. And above all, he shows great intelligence to know when to speed up or stop the game”.

After such a thunderous start to CAN, the player should receive many calls and could say goodbye to the Spanish second division.

With AFP

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