World Cup Group A predictions: Oranje stand out as star attraction
- The Netherlands are appearing at a World Cup for the first time since 2014
- Ecuador finished fourth in CONMEBOL qualifying for the Qatar spectacle
- Recommended bet: Netherlands and Ecuador straight forecast
The Netherlands missed out on a place at the last World Cup but they will be aiming to make up for lost time in Qatar after securing an apparently favourable draw.
Louis Van Gaal's side are the big-hitters and overwhelming favourites in Group A which also features tournament hosts Qatar, Africa Cup of Nations champions Senegal and South American representatives Ecuador.
The Oranje swiftly recovered from their absence at Russia 2018 by finishing runners-up to Portugal in the 2019 Nations League, and they came through a tricky World Cup qualifying group, finishing two points above Turkey and five ahead of Norway.
Van Gaal's team lacks a truly world class striker and a top draw goalkeeper, but they are strong in other areas and look the class act in an ordinary section.
Betting on the Dutch to win the group won't deliver a great return, but there is value in backing the Netherlands and Ecuador in a straight forecast at 9/4 with LiveScore Bet.
Ecuador are likely to be battle-hardened after coming through ultra-competitive South American qualifying.
They finished fourth after a campaign which featured impressive home draws against Brazil (1-1) and Argentina (1-1) and qualified at the expense of some good teams including Peru and Colombia, who were involved in the World Cup finals four years ago.
Ecuador have appeared at three World Cups since the turn of the century, winning at least one match in each of them, and a positive result in their opening match against Qatar could set them up for a decent tournament.
Senegal (10/11 to qualify): Bayern ace the key
The Bayern Munich forward suffered a knee injury while playing for his club earlier this month and faces a race against time to play any part in Qatar.
They have other good players, including Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibaly and Watford attacker Ismaila Sarr but would probably need a fully-fit Mane to reach their potential.
The Qataris are taking part in a World Cup finals for the first time and have had almost 12 years to prepare since being awarded the hosting rights in December 2010.
Some initial progress was made and Qatar's performance peaked at the 2019 Asian Cup where they lifted the trophy after defeating Japan 3-1 in the final.
The Qataris have warmed up for the World Cup with five successive friendly victories but none of the opposition were particularly strong and they may struggle when the serious stuff starts against Ecuador in their Group A opener.
Qatar's entirely domestic-based squad is desperately short of top level experience and it would be a surprise if they avoided finishing at the foot of the section.
The Netherlands look worthy odds-on favourites to finish top of Group A but the battle for second will be keenly contested and it could be Ecuador who edge aside Senegal in the race for a last-16 place.
Senegal's hopes have been hit by the cruel blow of Mane's knee injury and Qatar could find themselves out of their depth.