2022 World Cup hosts Qatar were eliminated as The Netherlands draw 1-1 with Ecuador at the Khalifa International Stadium, in Al Rayyan.
Cody Gakpo got the Dutch off to the perfect start with a goal after just six minutes. A despairing Ecuadorian backpass came to Davy Klaassen, the Ajax midfielder delayed his pass as Gakpo raced into a gap on the edge of the box, and Gakpo took the pass and slapped his left-footed shot into the top corner.
Ecuador’s response was long in coming, but when it did, only Virgil van Dijk’s brilliance kept them at bay. Again and again, the Liverpool defender was perfectly positioned to keep the Dutch clean sheet intact.
The South Americans did seem to equalise in first-half stoppage time, when Pervis Estupinan flicked Angelo Preciado’s long-range shot into the net but it was ruled out for offside. Jackson Porozo was standing directly in front of Dutch goalkeeper Andries Noppert.
Five minutes after the break, Ecuador did get their equaliser. Enner Valencia pounced after Noppert could only parry Estupinan’s low shot. The South Americans dominated from there.
Gonzalo Plata hammered a shot against the bar, Michael Estrada scuffed a shot from virtually the penalty spot and Ecuador continued to knock on the door.
The Dutch looked ragged, but managed to weather the storm and hold on for a point which may yet be crucial.
TALKING POINT – ARE ECUADOR A THREAT?
The South American side were not among the leading contenders or even the dark horses before the tournament but they have served notice with an excellent performance against a strong European side.
Ecuador are a possible opponent for England in the next round, and their mix of skill and speed would be a challenge for Gareth Southgate’s side.
England famously faced Ecuador in the knockout stages in 2006, winning a narrow 1-0 that went down in infamy in terms of spectacle.
While it would be fanciful at this stage to suggest that Ecuador could win the tournament, they have shown quality in their opening two matches which suggests they could yet make a run.
Of course, the loss of Enner Valencia which now seems inevitable would undermine any hopes they might have.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – VIRGIL VAN DIJK
The Liverpool defender was immaculate against Ecuador. Even in the first half, when the Dutch were the stronger side, he made several brilliant interventions.
In the second, Van Dijk was the only thing holding together a ragged Dutch defence. Wave after wave of Ecuadorian attacks came forward but Van Dijk was always there.
The former Southampton and Celtic man had 11 defensive involvements without conceding a foul.
Holland: Noppert 6, Timber 5, van Dijk 9, Ake 8, Dumfries 7, Koopmeiners 5, Frenkie de Jong 8, Blind 6, Klaassen 6, Gakpo 7, Bergwijn 5. Subs: Depay 5, Berghuis 6, de Roon N/A, Weghorst N/A.
Ecuador: Galindez 6, Angelo Preciado 7, Porozo 7, Torres 6, Hincapie 7, Estupinan 8, Plata 7, Mendez 6, Caicedo 7, Estrada 7, Valencia 8. Subs: Ibarra N/A, Sarmiento 6, Rodriguez N/A.
6′ GOAL NETHERLANDS – Cody Gakpo smashes his country into the lead after a poor backpass from Ecuador gives the Dutch possession just outside the box.
25′ VAN DIJK AGAIN – The Dutch are suddenly under pressure but the giant Liverpool defender is keeping them safe for now.
33′ GOOD SAVE, NOPPERT! – Enner Valencia drops his shoulder and weaves around Dumfries to find space and unleash a dipping shot. Noppert is at full stretch to save.
49′ GOAL ECUADOR – Who else but Enner Valencia? The Ecuadorian talisman tucks away a loose ball in the box after Estupinan’s low shot is fumbled by Noppert.
59′ PLATA OFF THE BAR – Gonzalo Plata’s thunderous strike seemed goal-bound, but doesn’t dip in time and hammers back off the bar.
64′ ESTRADA MIS-HITS RIGHT IN FRONT – Some chaotic Dutch defending serves up a huge chance, but the Ecuadorian striker under-hits his shot. A huge chance!