In Friday’s 1-1 draw, Ecuador’s Enner Valencia cancelled out Cody Gakpo’s stunning strike, denying the Netherlands the opportunity to become the first team in World Cup history to secure a last-16 spot.
Louis van Gaal’s players were far from their fluid best, as they were in Monday’s win against Senegal, but they claimed an early lead when in-demand forward Gakpo rifled in from 20 yards.
Ecuador, on the other hand, were active throughout and were fair value for their equalizer, which made Valencia only the fourth player in World Cup history to score six successive goals for a nation, albeit the striker was pulled off hurt just before the game’s end.
This may have an influence on his chances of winning the Golden Boot, but Valencia’s goal kept Ecuador and the Oranje together on four points in Group A, and doomed hosts Qatar to an early exit after their 3-1 loss to Senegal.
The Netherlands took the lead after just six minutes, and they did so spectacularly when Gakpo grabbed onto Davy Klaassen’s flick-on before blasting into the top-left corner.
Ecuador, on the other hand, responded positively to that setback, pushing Virgil van Dijk into two last-ditch interventions before Valencia tried Andries Noppert from range.
On the stroke of halftime, La Tri believed they had scored a leveller, but Pervis Estupinan’s instinctive finish was ruled out after offside Jackson Porozo was ruled to have obscured Noppert’s view.
Ecuador would not be denied again within four minutes of the resumption, as Valencia pounced on a rebound after Noppert had saved Estupinan’s shot.
Gustavo Alfaro’s team nearly added a second goal when Gonzalo Plata hit the crossbar with a superb left-footed effort.
Ecuador’s spirits were tempered, however, by a huge setback in the closing exchanges, as Valencia was carried off on a stretcher after collapsing holding his knee.
What does it imply? The Netherlands is irritated as its hosts make unwelcome history.
Excluding penalty shoot-outs, Van Gaal has yet to lose a World Cup game in charge of the Netherlands (W6 D3), tying Italy great Vittorio Pozzo’s record for the most World Cup games played without losing (nine).
He may be relieved to escape with a point after Ecuador threatened a miraculous comeback, with Valencia bothering the Oranje throughout.
The outcome had far-reaching consequences internationally, as Qatar became only the second host nation to be eliminated in the first round of the World Cup, following South Africa in 2010.
Valencia receives a piece of history
Valencia’s performance means he has scored each of Ecuador’s last six World Cup goals (three in 2014, three in 2022), a feat previously accomplished by only Portugal’s Eusebio, Italy’s Paolo Rossi, and Russia’s Oleg Salenko.
However, the striker’s chances of breaking the record may be jeopardized because he was observed seeking treatment in the dugout after being brought off the field late in the game.
Gakpo is back in the spotlight.
Gakpo appears to be having a breakout campaign after following up his stunning header against Senegal with a fantastic long-range strike here.
The PSV forward is only the second Dutch player to score in his first two World Cup appearances, following Memphis Depay in 2014, and suspicions of a big-money move to the Premier League appear unlikely to go away very soon.
Facts about Opta
- The Netherlands have now won each of their last 15 World Cup group games (W11 D4); only Germany from 1990 to 2010 and Brazil now (both 16) have had longer such streaks. Indeed, they have played more World Cup games without losing (9) than any other team since reaching the final in 2010.
- Ecuador has now gone unbeaten in four consecutive World Cup games for the first time in their history (W2 D2), and it was only the second time in their history that they avoided defeat in their first two World Cup games after 2006 – the only time they reached the knockout rounds.
- The Netherlands failed to win a World Cup match in which they scored first for the first time since a 2-2 draw with Mexico in 1998, when they led by two goals.
- Gakpo’s goal was Ecuador’s first in all competitions in 701 minutes of football since Argentina’s Julian Alvarez scored against them in March.
What comes next?
Both the Netherlands and Ecuador enter their final Group A games needing only a point to advance to the last 16. On Tuesday, Van Gaal’s team will face an already-eliminated Qatar, while Ecuador will face Senegal.