Netherlands, Ecuador share points to eliminate hosts Qatar
The Netherlands and Ecuador shared points in their second World Cup match on Friday at Khalifa International Stadium, with the South American underdogs looking the more dangerous side throughout their 1-1 draw.
The result means that hosts Qatar are the first team to be knocked out of the tournament. Senegal beat Qatar 3-1 earlier in the other Group A match of the day.
Cody Gakpo, the PSV Eindhoven forward, put the Netherlands in front with a superb strike in the sixth minute, but Ecuador fought back with such a ferocity that the Dutch were rattled.
Four minutes into the second half, Enner Valencia netted his third goal to lead the scorers at this year's World Cup so far.
With the Netherlands and Ecuador now both on four points in Group A, followed by Senegal with three, Qatar had to accept their elimination ahead of their last match against the Dutch side.
The head coach of Ecuador Gustavo Alfaro told the press after the match that he was so proud to lead the young squad.
"The draw was not a surprise for me. We executed in the right way, though we did not win the game. The opportunities are right there and we need to catch them up," said the 60-year-old. "I told my team that we did not do enough in the opener against Qatar and we need to do more. We need to stay focused every second."
"The Netherlands were strong opponents. They had qualified for the World Cups many times and their players are very experienced. But we're pretty well-prepared, very confident and determined. We showed the quality and solidarity to challenge them in 90 minutes. We had the feeling that we could be someone."
Louis Van Gaal, head coach of the Netherlands, said the result was acceptable, but he was not satisfied with the process.
"We didn't do well in ball possession and it's our opponents who took it. All the second balls and do-wells went to Ecuador. We lost the ball in second half so quickly and our opponents could have won over us if they could create more chances," said the 71-year-old.
"We need to improve the ball possession and take over the middle field. We are kind of losing the balance and need to find it back. And we need to show the capability that we can play better," said the legendary coach.
Ecuador will play Senegal in the last round of their group matches on Tuesday, while the Netherlands are to face the hosts Qatar.