AL RAYYAN, Qatar -- Ecuador continued its strong start to the World Cup, coming back from a goal down to draw with the Netherlands, 1-1, at Khalifa International Stadium. The South American side equalized through Enner Valencia early in the second half and took an important step toward advancing out of the group stage.
1. Tactical change from Ecuador pays off
After playing with a back four to open the tournament, Ecuador made a major tactical shift in how it set up against the Netherlands with Troyes centerback Jackson Porozo coming into the team to replace Romario Ibarra, who played mostly on the left side of midfield against Qatar.
When the Netherlands scored just six minutes in -- due to an errant back pass from Brighton and Hove Albion's Moises Caicedo -- it seemed like the change might have backfired but that wasn't the case. Outside of that moment, Ecuador controlled the rest of the game and got the equalizer shortly after halftime.
There's no doubt Ecuador should feel good about how it played, but to be as dominant as it was and not get the three points feels like a missed opportunity. Now they'll play the African champions, Senegal, needing a win or draw to advance to the knockout stage for the second time in history and first time since 2006.
2. Historically poor chance creation from the Netherlands
This was the Netherlands' least threatening attack in a game going back over a decade. Dating back to 2010, the Netherlands worst single-game Expected Goals (xG) output over 187 matches was 0.25, according the TruMedia StatsPerform database. Only three times has it dipped below 0.4.
Against Ecuador, they managed just 0.07, a historically inept output for a team that doesn't lack for attacking talent. Which brings us to Cody Gakpo. His sublime early finish -- and second goal of the tournament -- saved the point for Netherlands, giving the Dutch four points through two games.
With Qatar up next, the Dutch should have safe passage to the Round of 16 after missing the 2018 tournament, but it's hard to envision a deep tournament run following this performance.
3. Golden Boot award watch for Enner Valencia
Who had Enner Valencia as their Golden Boot award pick? The Fenerbahce forward scored the equalizer early in the second half and sits on three goals after two games, following his two-goal performance on the tournament's opening night. Five goals has been good enough to win the Golden Boot at two of the last four World Cups (2006 and 2010). It's still early, of course, but he's well on his way to becoming a legend back home in South America.
Player ratings (1= worst, 10= best)
Netherlands: A. Noppert 7, J. Timber 6, V. van Dijk 7, N. Ake 7, S. Bergwijn 5, C. Gakpo 7, D. Klaassen5, D. Blind 4, T. Koopmeiners 6, F. de Jong 6, D. Dumfries 6
Subs: M. Depay 5, S. Berghuis 6, de Roon 6, Weghorst 6
Ecuador: H. Galindez 6, F. Torres 8, P. Hincapie 7, M. Estrada 6, E. Valencia 8, A. Preciado 7, G. Plata 6, J. Mendez, M. Caicedo 5, J. Porozo 8
Subs: Sarmiento 6, Ibarra n/a, Rodriguez n/a
Best and worst performers
He stepped up when it mattered, scoring a 49th minute goal to give Ecuador an important point.
There's a lot of collective blame for how poor the Netherlands were, but Bergwijn getting pulled at halftime was justified after he failed to find much of the game in the first half.
Highlights and notable moments
Gakpo's goal was the only shot on target for the Netherlands.
That didn't take long ⚡️— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 25, 2022
Cody Gakpo gets things started for the Netherlands 🇳🇱 pic.twitter.com/rV8MmgCgQo
Valencia continues to be key for Ecuador and is an early contender to win the Golden Boot.
The current scoring leader of the 2022 FIFA World Cup: Enner Valencia 🇪🇨✍️ pic.twitter.com/frpAtRsPYf— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 25, 2022
After the match: What the players and managers said
Ecuador coach Gustavo Alfaro on outplaying the Netherlands and still not winning: "We didn't win because the nature of football sometimes. In football you can deserve to win and for whatever reason you don't get that result. I told my players I was not interested in the result tonight. That was the least of my interest. We were facing the Netherlands, a team that is here to win the World Cup."
Netherlands head coach Louis van Gaal: "I think that we played not a good match. I think that we have played well when the ball was in the possession of our opponent, but we didn't play well with the ball possession and that is our problem. All the second balls, all the duels were for Ecuador. Then you cannot win, I believe."
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
- Cody Gakpo's goal in the 6th minute is the fastest goal scored in the 2022 World Cup so far.
- Cody Gakpo: 2nd World Cup goal in his 2nd World Cup game
- Enner Valencia now has 6 of Ecuador's 13 World Cup goals.
- With the draw, Qatar is the first team eliminated from the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Netherlands: The Dutch will face World Cup hosts Qatar on Nov. 29 at 10 a.m. ET. For the Qataris, who are already out of the tournament, the match will be consolation for an otherwise poor performance. Meanwhile the Netherlands will seal their qualification into the knockouts.
Ecuador: Tuesday's match against Senegal (10 a.m. ET) always figured to be the pivotal one for Ecuador and that remains true.