It was a bump in the road on Louis van Gaal’s farewell tour. The 71-year-old’s retirement should still be pushed back a week or two, but when the Netherlands had a chance to become the first team to secure a place in the knockout stages, they encountered resistance from the unannounced but excellent Ecuador team. The Dutch lost their lead and their way, were beaten by a huge margin – 14-2 – and could consider themselves lucky not to be beaten. After a recent love affair with Van Gaal, it was a reminder that he could oversee hard, dull football and Ecuador was a more enterprising and energetic team.
The plague of Qatar was one of the welcome surprises of the tournament. Ecuador is adjacent to the Netherlands at the top of the group and is on course to equal its best World Cup run in history. Avoid losing to Senegal and they will only reach the round of 16 for the second time. The plague that befell them concerned their maker of history. After Enner Valencia joined Eusebio, Paolo Rossi and Oleg Salenko in a select team to score six goals in a row for his country at this stage, he was on a stretcher. After an explosive start to the World Cup, it faces a cruel and premature end.
Van Gaal should extend his participation further. The Netherlands, who face Qatar, should still qualify, but a perfect start gave way to a disappointing performance. A brilliant early goal by Cody Gakpo was their only shot in the opening 65 minutes. This highlighted the lack of creativity: while Davy Klaassen got an assist on the opener, he otherwise created nothing as number 10, while Steven Bergwijn was completely ineffective before being caught at half-time. Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 formation is all about safety, but Holland still flirted with the first defeat of his third spell. Gonzalo Plata shook the bar with a ferocious shot and had it been a few inches later, justice might have been done as Ecuador produced a mix of strength and purpose.
They led comfortably for most of the game against Qatar, but showed determination to respond when they were losing to the Dutch. The dynamic left-back Pervis Estupinan made an impression as in the match against Qatar and the prowling Moises Caicedo made an impact again.
However, their talisman is their captain and record holder. Valencia’s threat was evident before the break when Andries Noppert made a sharp save from the near post. His goal came four minutes after the break. Van Gaal brought Jurrien Timber back for Matthijs de Ligt but the Ajax defender was dispossessed in midfield, Estupinan practiced a shot and when Noppert parried Valencia were on hand to collect the ball. The tournament’s first goal scorer is now the first man to three and continues his improbable quest for the Golden Boot, and at 33, he looks to be in top form of his life.
Ecuador must hope to see them again in this tournament, but they have already proven they can channel their disappointment. After the first half, they celebrated the equalizer, and Estupinan reacted sharply to Angelo Preciado’s shot. However, Jackson Porozo was offside on the line and interfered with Noppert’s vision, which Ecuador countered by surrounding the referee.
The Netherlands should have made more use of its pardon. They started by reversing the roles: after scoring a late goal against Senegal, this time the goal came early. This was proof of Gakpo’s brilliance, who emphasized that he had the potential to become the star of the tournament.
This was demonstrated in the fog of ruthlessness, the whip-whipped shot hit so cleanly that it bounced off the net. A man as immodest as Van Gaal might think he deserves credit too: after using Gakpo as No. 10 against Senegal, he moved him into the attack.
Klaassen was his supplier, recovering the ball after Ecuador’s first goal conceded in the 701st minute. However, if it seemed a sign of Gakpo’s precocious development that he tied Patrick Kluivert on two World Cup goals and went from two shots to 20, Holland’s inability to create more chances seemed more apt and more damning as the game receded away from the goal. their.
Van Gaal called in Memphis Depay at half-time as he returns to form and the prospect of the prolific Barcelona player starting could give them more opportunities. But while Van Gaal optimistically declared last week that his team had the quality to win a World Cup, here it was almost invisible except for Gakpo’s goal. There was little indication that he would have a perfect goodbye.