Netherlands holds on as Ecuador grabs draw to keep Group A open
Enner Valencia and Cody Gakpo continued their eyebrow-raising World Cup runs as both scored in a 1-1 draw between the Netherlands and Ecuador that leaves Group A anything but settled.
Yes, the Dutch are in the catbird seat with four points and winless, eliminated Qatar left on the docket, but Ecuador only needs a draw against Senegal after the Lions of Teranga took down the hosts earlier Friday.
Gakpo gave the Dutch an early lead with a sensational goal but Ecuador more than deserved its equalizer and will feel capable of beating the Sadio Mane-less Senegalese on the final group match day.
All to play for in Group A
Qatar is out. That’s all we really know about Group A as the Netherlands and Ecuador both left this game with four points, one more than Senegal.
But the Netherlands, of course, is the only one yet to play that winless Qatar team. While the hosts will be playing for pride and country, there’s little reason to think that the Dutch can’t and won’t get the draw that shows it into the knockout rounds.
And that makes this draw pretty spectacular and explains why Ecuador wasn’t content to deliver a second goal that would seal its knockout round fate before meeting Senegal.
The Dutch got their exceptional goal from Cody Gakpo, who is delivering the breakout performance many expected from him at this World Cup. The goal was so exceptional that the Dutch finished the game with a gross expected goals total of 0.07.
But they did have 54 percent of the ball, as Ecuador was both prepared to have it and hold it, but also to counter when the Dutch control dictated it.
Ecuador took 13 shots to the Netherlands’ two and boasted an xG of 1.64, as Pervis Estupinan joined Valencia in bringing danger. LAFC’s Jhegson Mendez was also strong and will have raised some eyebrows from the center of the pitch.
Frenkie de Jong bounced back for Holland and Man City’s Nathan Ake was also strong. Davy Klaassen would be the nation’s man of the early tournament in a world without Gakpo.
But without a winner, there’s no lack of tension on the final match day provided Qatar shows up.
Stars of the Show
Frenkie de Jong
Cody Gakpo goal video: Netherlands strikes first, early
Enner Valencia goal video: Ecuador equalizes after half
How to watch Netherlands vs Ecuador live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 5am ET - Friday, November 25Stadium: Khalifa International Stadium, Al RayyanTV channels en Español: TelemundoStreaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)
Key storylines, players to watch closely
Memphis Depay was fit enough to come off the bench against Senegal but he isn’t fit enough to start. Elsewhere LVG drops Matthijs de Ligt and Vincent Janssen and brings in Davy Klaassen. Their 3-4-1-2 formation looked a little disjointed in their opener.
Ecuador have switched to a 5-4-1 formation and Enner Valencia has shaken off a knee injury to provide La Tri with a big boost. Their skipper scored both goals against Qatar and became their all-time leading goalscorer in the process. The solid base Moises Caicedo gives them in midfield allows Valencia, Gonzalo Plata and Michael Estrada to spring attacks and Ecuador are a very dangerous team on the counter.
Netherlands quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 8
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 10
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group G)
Coach: Louis van Gaal
Key players: Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong
Ecuador quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 44
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 3
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (4th place)
Coach: Gustavo Alfaro
Key players: Enner Valencia, Moises Caicedo, Pervis Estupinan