Netherlands vs Ecuador predictions: Dutch can double up
The top two teams in Group A meet for a pivotal clash on Friday when the Netherlands and Ecuador go in search of the points that would ensure qualification to the round of 16.
Oranje left it late to see off Senegal in their World Cup 2022 debut, but Louis van Gaal's men showed enough patience and quality to match the 2-0 result that La Tri achieved against the tournament hosts.
The euphoria Ecuador felt after that opening-game victory on Sunday has now given way to a realisation that their task is about to get a lot tougher.
Coach Gustavo Alfaro has warned his players they must improve their scoring efficiency if they are to stand any chance of doubling up against the Dutch.
Memphis Depay is likely to start Friday's game at Khalifa International Stadium after a bright showing as a second-half substitute against Senegal on Monday.
The 28-year-old, who has netted 42 times for his country, was introduced by Van Gaal for the final 30 minutes as he works his way back to full fitness.
Vincent Janssen is the likely forward to drop out with no other changes anticipated.
Steven Bergwijn and Steven Berghuis should both keep their spots in the side, with Denzel Dumfries and Daley Blind continuing to operate as Van Gaal's wing-backs in a 3-4-1-2.
Jurrien Timber has been trying to catch the coach's eye in training, but Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt and Nathan Ake are expected to start in the backline once more.
Ecuador are sweating on the fitness of Enner Valencia, who was withdrawn in the 77th minute against Qatar after scoring both goals in the contest.
The national side's all-time leading goalscorer sprained his knee, but is reportedly winning his battle to feature from the start again against the Dutch.
Jeremy Sarmiento came off the bench against the tournament hosts and showed some flashes of flair.
He could be the third Brighton player to make Alfaro's starting line-up as the coach considers a tactical tweak to bring in a midfielder for striker Michael Estrada.
Experienced defender Robert Arboleda is an option to bolster the Tricolors' backline, although Alfaro will probably keep faith with the majority of the side that started against Qatar.
Andries Noppert, who was advised by his family to give up football in 2020 and was without a club twice in his career, kept a clean sheet on his international debut for the Netherlands.
Ecuador, meanwhile, have now kept clean sheets in each of their last seven games — four of which have finished 0-0.
Their two previous duels with the Dutch ended in a 1-1 draw and a 1-0 defeat, although in both cases they were friendly games that took place in Amsterdam while preparing for the 2014 and 2006 World Cups respectively.
Ecuador produced 18 sequences of 10 or more passes against Qatar while the Netherlands could only manage seven such sequences in their opening game against Senegal.
Valencia is of great value to Ecuador as the Fenerbahçe striker scored both goals against Qatar, while he also had another goal disallowed.
At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Valencia was accurate three times, twice against Honduras and once against Switzerland.
They took time to warm to their task, but the Netherlands were deserved victors over Senegal in their opening game and could go even better with Depay back in the starting XI on Friday.
Ecuador were dominant too, but benefitted from the stage fright Qatar suffered.
La Tri's recent results have been steady yet unspectacular and now they will go up against a team operating at a much higher level than any they have faced since their home draw with Argentina in March.
Van Gaal's men have scored at least two goals in 12 of their last 15 internationals and ought to be able to break Ecuador's workman-like side down eventually.
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