Netherlands barely went past the threat of Senegal in their opening match of the group stage as they won 2-0 courtesy of late goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen, and now they meet the in-form Ecuador in their battle to reach the knockouts.
Ecuador beat hosts Qatar in their opening match and at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha today, their aim will be the same as the Dutch, to win and get through to the knockouts.
The Dutch struggled big time against Senegal as they failed to find control with a dysfunctional midfield. They might have been lucky to get away as an excellent Frenkie De Jong pass saw youngster Cody Gakpo score in fine fashion to give them the lead before Klaassen sealed the deal in stoppage time.
And if Netherlands go into the game against Ecuador with the same playing XI, it might spell trouble for them, and their coach Louis Van Gaal agreed.
“I think Ecuador are a more organized team than Senegal. It will be hard,” he said in a press conference on Thursday.
Against Senegal, a big loss for Netherlands was the absence of Memphis Depay in the XI as the forward is still recovering from injury. But he is likely to return to the first XI today and that will definitely make the Dutch fans feel much better.
They will also hope that they have a proper midfield in this game as De Jong was often seen isolated in the middle of the park against Senegal.
Netherlands are unbeaten in their last 16 matches and among those 12 are wins. In those matches, they have scored 43 goals and conceded only 13. While there defence remains a worry since their shaky performance against Senegal, they still managed a clean sheet and that is bound to boost their confidence.
On the other side, Ecuador are flying high after they completely dominated the hosts in the opening match of the World Cup. Their captain Enner Valencia led by example in that match as they scored twice, one from the spot and the other with an excellent header.
They are a solid defensive unit, shown in their qualifying campaign where they were the third-best defence in South America behind only Brazil and Argentina.
Ecuador are also unbeaten in their last eight matches and while they have struggled to score goals, they have not let much in as well. In those matches, they have only conceded one goal, and that was against Argentina.
Netherlands will have to perform much better to beat Ecuador, while the South Americans will only hope for same.