DOHA: Cody Gakpo scored again in the World Cup, but the Netherlands missed out on a spot in the last 16 after being held to a 1-1 tie by a battling Ecuador, who eliminated host nation Qatar.
Gakpo, the gangly PSV Eindhoven attacker who has been heavily linked with a transfer to Manchester United, put the Netherlands ahead in the sixth minute at the Khalifa International Stadium with a spectacular shot.
Despite this, Ecuador battled back with such vigor that the Dutch were shaken, and they earned the equalizer four minutes after halftime, which came through Enner Valencia.
It was Ecuador captain Valencia’s third goal of the World Cup, following his brace in Ecuador’s opening victory over Qatar.
As a result of this outcome, the host state, which has already been defeated twice, is the first to be ousted from its own World Cup.
Three-time beaten finalists the Netherlands, on the other hand, are only one point ahead of Ecuador and Senegal, who overcame Qatar 3-1 earlier in the day.
Ecuador and Senegal play in the last round of Group A fixtures next Tuesday, while Louis van Gaal’s Dutch team faces the hosts with the knowledge that a draw guarantees their position in the knockout phase.
Much of the hype leading up to this game had been on Memphis Depay, who had excelled as a second-half replacement in the 2-0 win against Senegal in his first game in two months following a thigh injury.
While he began on the bench again tonight, it was the 23-year-old Gakpo who shone in front of the goal.
After scoring a late-headed goal against Senegal, he made an early breakthrough on this occasion, smashing a left-foot effort between Hernan Galindez’s desperate dive and the left-hand post after being set up by Davy Klaassen.