As important as the three points against Senegal were, Van Gaal expressed dissatisfaction with the way in which they came about. “We won, but we also know that we can and must do better,” emphasized captain Virgil van Dijk. Late goals from Cody Gakpo (84′) and Davy Klaassen (99′) brought the decision against the Africans.
“Sometimes we wanted to force it as we went forward and we exposed ourselves on the defensive. We have to improve in that respect because Ecuador is very good at this art,” said Van Dijk, but at the same time he was “optimistic”. Star striker Memphis Depay, who will probably be in the starting XI this time, should help. “He played 30 minutes against Senegal and took it well. Now comes the next step with 45 minutes of play,” said Van Gaal.
Van Gaal sees discipline as key
Van Gaal explained that he had drawn his conclusions from the upsets of the World Cup so far. “The fact that Argentina and Germany lost says something. It’s easier to defend than to score. Germany attacked a lot in the first half but didn’t score. It has a lot to do with discipline,” said the 71-year-old on Thursday. “I dare to say: My team is disciplined for 90 minutes. That is what defines this group.”
FIFA World Cup 2022, Group A
Friday 5 p.m
Netherlands – Ecuador
Al-Rajjan, Khalifa International Stadium, SR Ghorbal (ALG)
Netherlands: Noppert – Timber, Van Dijk, Ake – Dumfries, F. de Jong, 11 Berghuis, Blind – Depay – Bergwijn, Gakpo
Ecuador: Galindez – An. Preciado, Torres, Hincapie, Estupinan – Silver, Mendez, Caicedo, Ibarra – Estrada, Valencia
With regard to the DFB selection, Van Gaal also stated that his team would not take any action similar to the mouth gesture of the Germans. “Before the first game, we made a point behind the political questions. It’s about a goal and we won’t let that distract us, neither by FIFA nor by other organisations,” said Van Gaal.
Dazzling atmosphere in Ecuador
Ecuador fears before their third duel with Elftal (one defeat, one draw in two friendlies) for World Cup record scorer Enner Valencia, who scored both goals against Qatar. “We’ll have to wait for training and then see what happens next.” The Fenerbahce striker was substituted against Qatar after a hit to his ankle. “He’s not injured, that’s good,” said Alfaro. “But it was a heavy blow. Something like that always has consequences.”
Another goal on Friday could see Valencia draw level with Portugal’s Eusebio, Italy’s Paolo Rossi and Russia’s Oleg Salenko, who have scored six straight World Cup goals for their countries. Valencia currently stands for Ecuador with five World Cup goals en suite.
With or without the goalscorer – the mood in the Ecuador team after the opening win is dazzling. “We are very proud. We brought great joy to our country and we will approach the game against Holland in the same way as we did against Qatar,” said midfielder Jhegson Mendez. Alfaro said: “We are now playing against a team that wants to be world champions. We have nothing to lose. We will fight to the end.”