Netherlands and Ecuador face off in a pivotal Group A clash, with the winner likely achieving qualification for the next round.

Group A of the 2022 FIFA World Cup seems straightforward after the opening round of games. The current top two are the current favourites to make the next round. A win for Senegal against Qatar would complicate things for one of the Netherlands and Ecuador, with the duo set to face each other in a pivotal clash.

The Netherlands displayed patience against Senegal in their opening game, as the game seemed destined to end in a goalless draw. Cody Gakpo’s 84th-minute header gave Louis van Gaal’s side the lead, and Davy Klaassen’s 98th-minute strike sealed the points.

That win puts them in a terrific position ahead of the second game against Ecuador. Another victory would ensure qualification into the Round of 16, provided they secure at least a point against Qatar in the final group game. For now, van Gaal’s men are the favourites. If they finish as Group A winners, they will take on the runners-up from Group B in the next round.

Their opponents, Ecuador, opened their account at the World Cup in a comfortable fashion, dispatching off hosts Qatar 2-0. The inferior quality of the host nation got exploited by Enner Valencia, who scored twice to collect all three points.

Ecuador know the need to get a positive result against the Netherlands to keep their hopes of qualifying for the next round. They are the team under pressure in Group A if, as expected, Senegal win their clash against Qatar. Hence a positive result, particularly a win against the Netherlands, would do them a world of good in the quest to progress into the next round.

Team News & Tactics

Netherlands

Louis van Gaal has no injury issues with his squad after the opening game against Senegal. The Netherlands head coach will ponder at least one change to the lineup after Memphis Depay proved his fitness. The Barcelona star was unfit to start the first game but came off the bench and played around 30 minutes.

Similarly, Marten De Roon also came off the bench and proved his fitness over half hour of football. While he will remain on the bench against Ecuador, Depay could get his first start in the tournament. He could replace Vincent Janssen in the lineup and partner Steven Bergwijn in the attack.

Besides that, van Gaal will not make further changes. A back-three of Matthijs de Ligt, Virgil van Dijk and Nathan Ake should continue, with Denzel Dumfries and Daley Blind being the wing-backs.

Frenkie de Jong and Steven Berghuis are the likely central midfield pairing. Cody Gakpo will continue playing in the attacking midfield position for his country as opposed to the wide role he takes up at PSV regularly.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2):Β Noppert; de Ligt, van Dijk, Ake; Dumfries, de Jong, Berghuis, Blind; Gakpo; Bergwijn, Depay

Ecuador

Ecuador came relatively unscathed from their opening game. However, the major concern was surrounding goalscorer Enner Valencia, who visibly suffered a knock. The forward could shake off the problem and start against the Netherlands.

The only possible change from the Qatar win could come in the attacking third. Michael Estrada could make way for Jeremy Sarmiento, although the duo can start if Valencia is unfit before the game.

Sarmiento’s introduction could see a change of shape for Ecuador. They could ditch the two-striker format to play with an attacking midfielder behind the central striker.

A 4-4-1-1 formation could take shape, with Ecuador retaining all the other players in defence and midfield from the win over Qatar. Some of the focus will be on Moises Caciedo and Pervis Estupinan to provide the spark in this game.

Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1):Β Dominguez; Arboleda, Torres, Hincapie, Estupinan; Preciado, Caicedo, Gruezo, Ibarra; Sarmiento; Valencia

Key Stats

  • The Netherlands have won 12 of their last 15 matches in the World Cup.
  • The Netherlands have kept a clean sheet in their last 4 matches in the World Cup.
  • The Netherlands have won five of their last six games in all competitions while remaining unbeaten during that phase.
  • Ecuador lost only one of their last seven games in the qualification phase.
  • Ecuador is unbeaten in the last six games in all competitions.

Player to Watch

Frenkie de Jong

Embed from Getty Images

The Barcelona midfielder is enduring a tough season both domestically and at the international level. Many expected him to shrug off his club form and shine for the Netherlands at the World Cup. The midfielder struggled against Senegal and needs to pick up his game.

He is a key part of the Netherlands, and his form will be crucial if the team goes deep into the tournament. De Jong is the main central midfielder in the side, and they could find themselves in trouble if he doesn’t revive his form soon. Everything seemingly passes through the Barcelona man.

Prediction

Netherlands 2-1 Ecuador

The two sides are vying for qualification into the next round and face each other in a pivotal clash. The winner will take a giant leap toward the knockout phases. The pressure is more on Ecuador to get a positive result, considering the Netherlands will likely move past Qatar in the last group match.

The Netherlands are the clear favourites on paper, but Ecuador can hurt sides owing to their many quality players. In this game, the Oranje could move past the South Americans, who could score a goal and make Louis van Gaal’s side sweat.

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