DOHA ( Associated Press) — After holding the Netherlands to the ropes with a draw that should have been a win, Ecuador is the master of its own destiny at the World Cup. And their young roster made it clear that they have the personality to respond to adversity.
Gustavo Alfaro’s team is giving people something to talk about with their game.
After the 1-1 draw on Friday night, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal approached Alfaro in the press room and greeted him with a folded hand. “You have overtaken us, I congratulate you,” he told her.
Ecuador shared first place in Group H with the Netherlands with four points. Senegal are third on three points and hosts Qatar remain on zero, with the dubious honor of being left out of the first team.
Tuesday’s match against Senegal will be the final for a place in the last 16. A draw would be enough for La Tri to reach the direct elimination stage for the second time in four competitions at the World Cup. He managed to pass the first round in his second appearance at Germany 2006.
What work did you do
Alfaro’s bet on his tactical approach against the Dutch gave him results.
In the 2–0 win against Qatar in the opening game, contrary to plan, the tactician fielded a line of three defenders and two full-backs, providing cover at the back, with the exception of the first leg of the game in which he conceded the Dutch goal. Good start on the wings.
“The idea was to cover up the Dutch attacks a bit. We knew it was a very strong team, but because of the line of three we had the option of closing down space for them”, explained winger Gonzalo Plata.
The inclusion of the 1.92 m tall Jackson Porrozzo also guaranteed against Dutch air raids.
On the other hand, Alfaro’s decision to field captain and scorer Enner Valencia despite recovering from a sprained knee was risky but decisive. Valencia scored an equalizer early in the second half.
To this we must add the attitude of a team – the third youngest in the World Cup – that did not panic after an early hit of goal.
More than tactical matters, Alfaro insists that the youth and inexperience of many players are major challenges in a tournament such as the World Cup. For example, a defensive error in clearing the ball out of the box cost Cody Gakpo a goal after six minutes.
“We had the young Sins that you take away from many battles, which most people on this team don’t have; The only person here with World Cup experience is Ener Valencia, the rest are boys”, Alfaro noted.
Ecuador remains concerned about Valencia, who suffered against the Netherlands with a sprained knee against Qatar.
The Ecuadorian captain lay on the pitch after the draw with a sore throat.
Valencia told that he will need a good recovery before the crucial match against Senegal. “The doctor allowed me to play (against the Netherlands), hopefully we will be much better in the next game,” said the Turkish Fenerbahçe player.
With their goal against the Netherlands, Valencia momentarily topped the World Cup table with three. The 33-year-old striker scored his sixth goal in five World Cup appearances. Already with his double against Qatar, he had surpassed Agustín Delgado as the top Ecuadorian scorer at the World Cup.
Although Senegal are missing star Sadio Mane, the African champions bounced back from a 2-0 defeat by the Dutch to beat the home side 3-1 on Thursday.
Ecuador has never faced an African opponent in the World Cup. The blow can be intense and cause considerable physical friction.
“Then you have to be okay, because a more intense and worse fight is coming than today (Friday),” Alfaro warned.