After Ecuador’s 2-0 win over hosts Qatar in the opening match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, they will try to one-up that by getting a positive result against the Netherlands.
Sunday’s Ecuador win against Qatar cannot be overstated. Although the host nation was poor from the very beginning of the game, the Ecuadorians capitalized on the Qataris’ nervousness on the big occasion. Gustavo Alfaro, Ecuador’s Argentine coach since 2020, switched to a rare 4-4-2 system. It worked perfectly because the team was able to stay compact defensively and allowed for quick transitions to the attack.
On the other hand, the Netherlands won an uninspired game against Senegal. After that game, Ecuador must feel confident about pulling off a good result against the European powerhouses on Friday.
It will be interesting to see if Alfaro stays with a 4-4-2 lineup. He could go back with his usual 4-3-3 lineup and have three defensive midfielders in front of the center-back pairing of Félix Torres and Piero Hincapié. Both were impressive on Sunday. Reverting back to this lineup could mean the return of Carlos Gruezo in central midfield. He was surprisingly, excluded from the starting lineup. Jhegson Méndez of LAFC came in place in that central defensive role and did very well linking up with the speedy wingers and forwards.
A Gruezo return could mean Moisés Caicedo on the left side of that midfield and Méndez on the right side. This lineup would free Caicedo to move up in the attack and assist with getting balls to the wingers and strikers like the in-form Enner Valencia.
How Ecuador Shape Up Against the Netherlands
Holland has a solid defensive shape but Senegal was able to catch them off-guard on the counter-attack. Senegal had a few good chances to score throughout the game but was missing a clinical striker and a precise final touch near the goal.
This is something Ecuador does have. In World Cup qualification, they were known for being lethal on the counter-attack because of the speedy wingers and full-backs. They are also a threat on set-pieces with their tall central defenders being more than capable of scoring off dead ball situations. Alfaro having the team play a compact style that leaves very little space in between lines lets this team transition from defense to attack very quickly. The full-backs, Pervis Estupiñán, on the left, and Ángelo Preciado, on the right, are very dangerous when going forward.
We saw this type of play throughout the whole game against Qatar. The hosts struggled to get out of their own half. The second goal where Preciado crossed the ball for a brilliant Valencia headed goal, showed the effectiveness of the compact style of play. Alfaro has been developing this style throughout his two-year reign in charge of La Tri.
In terms of goalscoring, aforementioned Valencia has brought his club goal-scoring form with Fenerbahçe to the World Cup. He was brilliant, linking up with the midfield and drawing out the Qatari defense. The former West Ham man was also always in the right spots in the penalty area, giving the opposition defense a hard time. It’s no wonder he is the top scorer in the Turkish Süper Lig this season for the current league leaders. The all-time leading goalscorer for the national team brought that X-factor up top for Ecuador. This is something Holland will have to watch out for that they did not have to deal with against Senegal.
The Netherlands is a much stronger test for the South Americans. If they stay true to their style of play, they can get an upset win and move onto the Round of 16 with one game left to play in Group A.