Published: 11:55, November 24, 2022 | Updated: 17:59, November 24, 2022
Ecuador, Netherlands eye a place in the next round
By Reuters

Netherlands players celebrate at the end of the match during the World Cup, group A soccer match between Senegal and Netherlands at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Nov 21, 2022. (LUCA BRUNO / AP)

DOHA - Ecuador or the Netherlands will take a huge step towards the second round of the World Cup if either can force a victory in Friday’s Group A clash at the Khalifa International Stadium after both sides won their openers in Qatar.

The Netherlands were far from their efficient best in beating African champions Senegal 2-0 in their opening group game on Monday

But while Ecuador have set their target of advancing to the round of 16, as they did in Germany in 2006, the Dutch will be looking for a vastly improved performance to back up coach Louis van Gaal’s assertion that they can go on and win the World Cup.

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The Netherlands were far from their efficient best in beating African champions Senegal 2-0 in their opening group game on Monday.

Van Gaal was pleased with the three points, and vindication of his surprise decision to hand goalkeeper Andries Noppert an international debut, but did criticise the manner of the victory, as did captain Virgil van Dijk.

"We won but we also know that we can and must do better," the skipper said.

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"Going forward we sometimes tried to force things, and we too often left ourselves exposed to Senegal's counter-attacks. That is an area in which we will need to improve because it is an art that our next opponents, Ecuador, are very good at.

"But I am optimistic because I feel we are going to get better," Van Dijk added.

Ecuador are confident that Enner Valencia, who got both goals in their 2-0 win over hosts Qatar on Sunday, will be fit to play despite some concerns over a knee sprain.

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Goalkeeper Hernan Galindez said Saudi Arabia’s shock win over Argentina on Tuesday proved no team was unbeatable.

“I think that Argentina's defeat will not be the last surprise of this World Cup," he added.

“Despite the victory of the Netherlands, they were evenly matched against Senegal. There are certainly ways to hurt the Netherlands.

“It will be a tough match, but I expect the Netherlands to approach us with respect,” added the 35-year-old.

The Dutch will likely give Memphis Depay the start after he came off the bench against Senegal for his first match in two months after struggling with a hamstring injury.