– The Netherlands are now unbeaten in 16 games and have won 12
– Ecuador have kept a clean sheet seven times in a row
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The top two teams in Group A meet in a crucial meeting on Friday as the Netherlands and Ecuador go in search of the points that would secure qualification for the round of 16.
Oranje left late to prevail against Senegal in their debut at the 2022 World Cup, but Louis van Gaal’s men showed enough patience and quality to equal the 2-0 result La Tri achieved against the tournament hosts.
The euphoria that Ecuador felt after their opening win on Sunday has now given way to the realization that the task will be much more difficult.
Coach Gustavo Alfaro has warned his players that they need to improve their goal efficiency if they want any chance of doubling against the Dutch.
Memphis Depay is likely to start Friday’s game at the Khalifa International Stadium after a brilliant performance as a second-half substitute against Senegal on Monday.
The 28-year-old, who has scored 42 times for his country, was unveiled by Van Gaal in the final 30 minutes as he works his way back to full fitness.
Vincent Janssen is the most likely striker to be eliminated with no further changes expected.
Steven Bergwijn and Steven Berghuis should both retain their places in the squad, while Denzel Dumfries and Daley Blind continue to act as Van Gaal’s full-backs in a 3-4-1-2.
Jurrien Timber has tried to draw the manager’s attention in training but Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt and Nathan Ake are expected to return in defence.
Ecuador are sweating on the fitness of Enner Valencia, who was eliminated by Qatar in the 77th minute after scoring both goals in the competition.
The national team’s all-time top scorer has sprained his knee but is reportedly set to win his battle against the Dutch to start again.
Jeremy Sarmiento came off the bench against the tournament hosts and showed some flashes of inspiration.
He could be the third Brighton player to feature in Alfaro’s starting line-up as the manager consider a tactical change to substitute a midfielder for striker Michael Estrada.
Experienced defender Robert Arboleda is an option to strengthen the Tricolors’ back line, although Alfaro is likely to remain loyal to the majority of the side that started against Qatar.
Andries Noppert, who was advised by his family to give up football in 2020 and has been without a club twice in his career, kept a clean sheet on his international debut for the Netherlands.
Ecuador have now kept a clean sheet in each of their last seven games – four of which ended 0-0.
The two previous duels with the Dutch ended in a 1-1 draw and a 0-1 defeat, both of which were friendly matches that took place as part of the preparation for the 2014 and 2006 World Cup in Amsterdam.
Ecuador produced 18 episodes of 10 or more passes against Qatar, while the Netherlands only managed seven such episodes in their opening game against Senegal.
Valencia is of great value for Ecuador as the Fenerbahçe striker scored both goals against Qatar while having another goal disallowed.
At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Valencia scored three times, twice against Honduras and once against Switzerland.
They needed time to warm up to their task, but the Netherlands were deserved winners against Senegal in the opening game and could do even better with Depay, back in the starting XI on Friday.
Ecuador also dominated, but benefited from the stage fright that Qatar suffered from.
La Tri’s recent results have been consistent but unspectacular and now they face a side playing at a much higher level than they have since their home game against Argentina in March.
Van Gaal’s men have scored at least two goals in 12 of their last 15 internationals and should be able to beat Ecuador’s workers side in the end.
Thatand it could take some performance from Alfaro’s men to avoid defeat in this Group A game.
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