Qatar became the first team to crash out of the tournament. The Dutch and Ecuador each have four points, Senegal have three. Qatar are without a point after they lost their opening game 0-2 to Ecuador and then went down 1-3 to Senegal earlier on Friday. They cannot qualify whatever happens in their final match against the Dutch on Tuesday.
The Netherlands took an early lead in the game with Cody Gakpo scoring the fastest goal of the tournament in the sixth minute, but their dominance did not last long. The goal spurred Ecuador to up their game and dictated the terms especially in the second half. The equalising goal for the South American side came early in the second half when their talismanic skipper Enner Valencia scored his third goal of the tournament in the 49th minute.
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Ecuador kept pressing for the winner and registered as many as 15 shots on goal in the game with four on target, while the Dutch managed just two attempts including the early goal.
Valencia, 33, tapped in his third goal of the tournament from a rebound in the second half after Cody Gakpo had put the Dutch ahead in the sixth minute with a sizzling shot.
Ecuador had a subdued first half as Louis van Gaal’s side looked comfortable but unhurried. But the South Americans, roared on by a large yellow-clad contingent at the Khalifa International Stadium, stepped up a gear in the second half and could have won it when Gonzalo Plata‘s strike hit the crossbar.
Plato thrashed a powerful shot onto the woodwork in the 59th minute as the South Americans went from strength to strength, consistently hustling the Dutch off the ball by applying a physically-demanding press that did not allow their opponents to play their usual flowing game.
It had started out most promising for the Dutch, looking for their second win of the tournament that would have ensured they were the first team to qualify for the knockout stages, when Gakpo scored.
A stray ball back to his defence by Moises Caicedo was stolen by Davy Klaassen, who then left Gakpo take over possession and slam a left-footed rocket into the net.
But that was as good as it got for Louis van Gaal’s side. Valencia’s clever pass in the 24th minute sent Caicedo away down the left and, although his touch was heavy and allowed the Dutch to intercept, it provoked a burst of noise from the large number of their fans that injected energy into the Ecuador players.
Valencia cut inside to fire a shot that forced a full stretch save out of Dutch goalkeeper Andries Noppert soon after the half hour mark and, as they kept up the pressure, Ecuador had the ball in the back of the net in first half stoppage time as Pervis Estupinan deflected the ball home.
However, it was ruled out because Jackson Porozo was both offside and standing in front of the goalkeeper and blocking his line of sight.
The equaliser four minutes into the second half was always on the cards, as Ecuador stole possession in midfield and fed Estupinan for a stinging shot on the left that Noppert did well to parry but with Valencia pouncing on the rebound.
The 33-year-old, who went off near the end of the game, has now netted Ecuador’s last six World Cup finals goals – three at the 2014 tournament in Brazil and three in Qatar.
(With inputs from agencies)