Ecuador can be much happier with this draw, as after an early defeat, Gustavo Alfaro’s team played forefoot football that almost delivered a fatal blow to the Netherlands.
They didn’t, but the result means Qatar will be knocked out of their own World Cup and become the first nation to go out in the group stage, while Ecuador and the Netherlands have four points each and Senegal three. As Louis van Gaal’s side take on the pointless hosts in their final game, the meeting between the South Americans and Africans looks like a straight shootout to see who progresses to the last 16. Ecuador are favorites as they only need a draw and after Dutch confidence has been seriously damaged. should rise, especially in regards to how they responded to Cody Gakpo’s opener, turning over a display of muscular strikes and pressure that soaked up energy and composure from their opponents.
Enner Valencia was their star player, he registered a third of the league, and so for him to be carried away towards the end is a concern and the only duff note for the Ecuadorians.
On Thursday, Van Gaal had stated that Gakpo could be a breakout star of the tournament and the 22-year-old needed just five minutes to show why. Here Steven Bergwijn, the attacker of the PSV player, lost Nathan Aké’s pass, but the ball ended up at the feet of Davy Klassen through the loose distribution of Moisés Caicedo, the No. 10 formed a cute back heel and took it with quick decisiveness skilfully passed a 20-yard left foot finish past Ecuador’s goalkeeper Hernán Galíndez, leaving a group of defenders as observers.
Two in two for Gakpo to stun Ecuador and give those in orange an early check that didn’t last long as those in navy would more or less dominate, for the rest of the match.
First, Pervis Estupiñán, Caicedo and Valencia showed poise by tapping the ball on point to stabilize their team, although this phase was short-lived and the Netherlands briefly took over again. Frenkie de Jong and Teun Koopmeiners in the engine room let Van Gaal’s men spin forward at their desired pace, which was a touch higher than a walk.
An arrow from Gonzalo Plata to the right indicated that Ecuador would serially disrupt this. In a flurry of action his cross reached Caicedo whose shot was blocked earlier, seconds later the Brighton man cut in from the left and fired the ball in, Virgil van Dijk had to clear. Estupiñán was fed from the throw and again Van Dijk was in save mode heading for the fullback’s throw.
Ecuador entertained on the left and when Valencia cut in from there and sent the ball flying, Andries Noppert’s save had to be sharp low, on his right.
Ecuador also lacked possession, harassing De Jong, Koopmeiners and Bergwijn only to eventually spill the ball and indicative of determination to draw level. This almost happened when Jackson Porozo, one of Alfaro’s three centre-backs, swung forward and bounced the ball into the marauding Angelo Preciado, but failed to capitalize.
Just before the break, Estupiñán was disallowed because Porozo was offside: he had already ducked to the right, the opposite direction to where he was beaten, although unsurprisingly Ecuador’s Mustapha Ghorbal’s complaints did not change his mind brought. .
For the second stanza, Van Gaal gave Memphis Depay the 45 minutes he had promised, Bergwijn was replaced but the number 10 had little impact.
Ecuador struck as Estupiñán skated into space and fired at Noppert’s target, he palmed out and Valencia couldn’t miss. This arose from catalog errors with a poor Noppert class, an even worse header from Daley Blind, De Jong involved in a midfield confusion and Ecuador benefiting from the captain’s sixth goal in five World Cup outings.
The Dutch were almost confused, any type of attacking pattern was a distant memory, so when Depay blasted through the center and claimed a free-kick, it felt a little shock, although no threat came from the dead ball.
Plata was much more convincing as he crashed off Noppert’s crossbar and it looked like only one team could win. Ecuador had reduced the Netherlands to a raggedness that certainly infuriated Van Gaal, a coach who trains his forwards to operate in defined zones and pass and move with trigonometric precision.
Until the whistle Ecuador were a threat, often re-arranging the Dutch in front of them by masterfully pinging the ball around, but now came Valencia’s injury that forced him to leave. But his team held on for a point that could go a long way in helping them reach the knockout stages.