Netherlands pegged back to a 1-1 draw with Ecuador in the second round of games in Group A, which see’s hosts Qatar eliminated from the competition.
The result means both sides are yet to advance through to the knockout rounds, but it leaves them in a great position to do so with both needing just a point from their next games to advance through the group. For Qatar, however, their participation in the football side of the tournament has come to an end just nine days in after a 12 year wait to host the competition.
This makes Qatar just the second host nation to be knocked out of the group stage in their own tournament, alongside South Africa, while it also sees them become the earliest out of any host nation to be knocked out in the World Cup’s 92-year history.
After opening the scoring with just six minutes left in the game against Senegal, Cody Gakpo waited until just the sixth minute to open the scoring this time around. The PSV forward is currently the top scorer of the Eredivise this season with nine goals in 14 games, and it looks as though he has continued this form into the World Cup with 2 goals in the opening 2 games.
Davy Klaasen’s pass was collected just outside the box by Gakpo who took another touch to set himself and then fired into the top left corner with his weaker left foot, leaving Ecuador’s keeper Hernan Galindez with no chance.
Ecuador thought they had equalised on the stroke of half time with Pervis Estupinan’s flick from Angelo Preciado’s long-range effort finding its way into the net. But VAR intervened to deny the Brighton player’s goal as teammate Jackson Porozo was deemed to be interfering with goalkeeper Andries Noppert’s view from an offside position, and so the Netherlands went into half time with their lead intact.
It didn’t take long after the restart for Ecuador to finally get their goal though, as Enner Valencia scored his third of the tournament to draw Ecuador level in the 49th minute. Estupinan played a part once again as his powerfully driven effort could only be parried into the path of Valencia, who poked it home. The Tricolors fans had a heart in mouth moment as VAR again checked for an offside, but celebrations continued seconds later as the goal was allowed to stand.
The goal means Valencia has scored Ecuador’s last six consecutive World Cup goals, making him just the fourth player to achieve this feat alongside Eusebio (Portugal, 1966), Paolo Rossi (Italy, 1982), and Oleg Salenko (Russia, 1994).
The Netherlands didn’t react well to the equaliser and Ecuador capitalised on this as they took control of the second half. The South American’s almost made the most of this control in the 59th minute after Gonzalo Plata picked the ball up inside the box and cannoned a shot of the crossbar, before it bounced away and Virgil Van Dijk could clear the ball up the pitch.
Despite a fantastic second half performance, the game ended on a sour note for Ecuador with the injury of their talisman Valencia who had to be stretchered off. Ecuador’s captain went to the ground with no one around him and appeared to have a problem with the same knee that forced his withdrawal in the opener against Qatar earlier this week.
While Ecuador are currently in fine form, with them having conceded just one goal in their last eight games and being unbeaten in four successive World Cup matches for the first time in their history, any further success the team has will be largely dependent on their captain’s fitness.
After the game Ecuador manager Gustavo Alfaro spoke on Valencia’s injury saying: “I think his injury is okay,” and that “he is going through such a good spell, and I am so happy for him.”
Concerns for Netherlands will also be rising after a lacklustre performance with Gakpo the only player showing to be of any threat to the opposition’s defence. Netherlands will be hoping that attacker Memphis Depay will be able to get back to match fitness in time to provide some support in the final third, with both Klaasen and Steven Bergwijn having very little effect in the tournament thus far.
These frailties in attack are especially damning when it’s said that Netherlands’ two shots in the game is the lowest any European side has managed in a World Cup game in the last 56 years, when these statisitcs first started to be recorded.
After the game Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal said: “I must say I was satisfied [with the result] but I was not satisfied with the game. We simply need to improve our game in terms of ball possession and we are working on that and we will continue to work on that. Whether we will make it in this tournament I can’t say, I can’t guarantee that but I think so.”
Both sides will now be looking to their next matches in what is their final games in the group stage. Netherlands will be facing up against newly eliminated Qatar where they only need a point to progress to the last 16. Ecuador face Senegal in their final game but they may prove to be tough opponents as they look to grab one of the qualification spots for themselves. Ecuador also require just a point to advance, while only a win will be enough for Senegal’s progression to the next stage.