Aiming to pick up their second consecutive win at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Netherlands squared off against Ecuador at the Khalifa International Stadium on Friday evening (25 November). The Oranje, however, failed to live up to their billing and were lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw. Cody Gakpo scored Holland’s only goal while skipper Enner Valencia netted for Ecuador.
The Oranje enjoyed a confident start at the Khalifa International Stadium, going in front after just six minutes of play. Davy Klaassen expertly fed the ball to Gakpo, and the FIFA World Cup debutant emphatically took care of the rest.
Instead of getting shell-shocked by the early goal, Ecuador immediately steadied themselves and decided to take the fight to the 2010 World Cup finalists. In the 11th minute, Piero Hincapie smartly directed Angelo Preciado’s cross to the far post, where Enner Valencia was lurking. He dispatched a firm volley, but Nathan Ake headed it away.
In the 32nd minute, Valencia drew an excellent save from Netherlands goalkeeper Andries Noppert. The forward received the ball on the left flank, used his quick feet to come inside, and went for goal with a piledriver of a shot. Noppert needed a strong right hand to keep it out.
In the third minute of first-half added time, Ecuador got the ball into the back of the net, courtesy of Pervis Estupinan’s smart toe-poke. Unfortunately for the spirited underdogs, Jackson Porozo, who was in an offside position, obstructed Noppert’s view, which prompted VAR to rule the goal out.
Ecuador started the second half as brightly as they closed off the first, and finally got the equalizer they were gunning for in the 49th minute. Estupinan went for goal from the left side of the Netherlands box. Noppert, unable to hold the shot, spilled it in front of Ecuadorian hitman Valencia, who made no mistake poking it in.
Just before the hour mark, Ecuador were denied the go-ahead goal by the crossbar. Gonzalo Plata stunningly went for the Dutch goal with a left-footed curler. His shot had Noppert beat, but the bar managed to save Netherlands’ blushes.
Louis van Gaal’s side created their best chance of the second half in the 73rd minute. Substitute Memphis Depay flicked the ball into Gakpo’s path and the goalscorer went for Hernan Galindez’s goal with a chipped effort. His shot narrowly missed the mark, but luckily for him, the flag eventually went up for offside.
Ecuador dominated the game from the moment they went behind in the first half. They had a lot more shots than Netherlands (15 vs 2), hit the woodwork once, and completed six crosses. In the end, Van Gaal’s team were fortunate to steal a point from Gustavo Alfaro’s side.
Here are two Dutch players who performed and three who failed to live up to the billing against Ecuador on Friday:
Underperformed: Virgil van Dijk
Liverpool ace Virgil van Dijk was not at his best against Ecuador. Given his experience and quality, he should have done better to keep Estupinan from testing Noppert in the 49th minute. The Dutch center-back backpaddled instead of putting pressure on the forward, allowing him to get his shot away. The rebound eventually fell to Valencia, who poked it home.
Against Ecuador, Van Dijk misplaced three long balls, was dribbled past once, lost possession 10 times, and came up second-best in four duels.
Performed: Frenkie de Jong
Barcelona star Frenkie de Jong was easily Netherlands’ brightest player in the middle of the park on Friday. He kept the game ticking with his short passes, made some vital defensive interventions, and held his own in one-on-one duels.
In his second FIFA World Cup game, De Jong attempted a whopping nine tackles, won 11 of 14 duels, made two interceptions, and blocked a shot. He also completed 63 accurate passes and accurately delivered a long ball.
Underperformed: Denzel Dumfries
Denzel Dumfries was shockingly ineffective against Alfaro’s men on Friday evening. He tried to drive the ball forward through the middle but was comprehensively blocked by the Ecuadorian defense. He misplaced plenty of passes, did not create any goalscoring opportunity, and committed a few cheap fouls, disrupting the flow of the game.
Dumfries completed only 10 passes (62.5% accuracy) at the Khalifa International Stadium on Friday, misplaced his only attempted cross, and lost four ground duels. He also lost possession 16 times and committed three fouls.
Performed: Cody Gakpo
PSV Eindhoven superstar Cody Gakpo bumped his stock further with another excellent goal at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Taking the ball off Klaassen, he drove to the left side of the Ecuadorian box, and let fly with his left foot. Galindez was convincingly beaten by the 23-year-old’s strike.
The superbly taken goal aside, Gakpo played a key pass, won three duels, and drew a foul. He also helped out at the back, performing three clearances and attempting a tackle.
Underperformed: Memphis Depay
Memphis Depay was introduced for the ineffective Steven Bergwijn at the start of the second half. Unfortunately, the Barcelona forward failed to repay his coach’s faith in him. He could not get himself into the game, lost possession cheaply, failed to hold his ground, and did not create any goalscoring opportunities.
Depay had zero shots on target in his second appearance at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He completed only nine passes (81.8% accuracy), lost all five of his duels, ceded possession 11 times, and failed in his only dribble attempt.
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