DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — Cody Gakpo scored again at the World Cup but the Netherlands missed the chance to secure a place in the last 16 on Friday as they were held to a 1-1 draw by battling Ecuador, a result which eliminated host nation Qatar.
Gakpo, the gangly PSV Eindhoven forward who has been strongly linked with Manchester United, put the Netherlands ahead with a superb strike in the sixth minute at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Yet, with a large and vociferous support behind them, Ecuador fought back with such ferocity that the Dutch were rattled, and they deserved the equaliser when it came through Enner Valencia four minutes after half-time.
It was Ecuador Captain Valencia's third goal of the World Cup already after his brace in his country's opening win over Qatar.
And one consequence of this result is that the host nation, already beaten twice, are the first team to be eliminated from their own World Cup.
Three-time beaten finalists the Netherlands are not quite through to the next round, with one point separating them, Ecuador and Senegal, who defeated Qatar 3-1 earlier.
"We have everything in our own hands. We have to be ready for Qatar and show a very good performance there and hopefully win the game," said Captain Virgil van Dijk.
"Today the second half wasn't good but sometimes you play a bad half even if you try to avoid it.
"But we are at the start of the tournament. We will improve."
Louis van Gaal's Dutch side meet the hosts in the last round of Group A games knowing a draw will make certain of their place in the knockout phase, with Ecuador and Senegal facing each other next Tuesday.
"Sometimes you deserve to win but don't get the result for different reasons," said Ecuador Coach Gustavo Alfaro.
"But I told the players I wasn't interested in the result tonight. It was the last of my worries.
"The Netherlands are a team who are here to win the World Cup."
Much of the talk before this game had been about Memphis Depay, with the Barcelona forward having impressed as a second-half substitute in the 2-0 win over Senegal in his first game in two months after a thigh injury.
While he once again started on the bench, it was the 23-year-old Gakpo who again starred in front of goal.
Scorer of the late headed opener against Senegal, he got an early breakthrough on this occasion, lashing a left-foot shot between the despairing dive of Hernan Galindez and the post after being set up by Davy Klaassen.
That, remarkably, was to be the Netherlands' only shot on target as they were pushed back by Ecuador for much of the rest of the game.
Giant Dutch goalkeeper Andries Noppert had to get down to his right to keep out a shot from Valencia, who had been a pre-match fitness doubt.
Then Ecuador thought they had equalised in first-half stoppage time when Pervis Estupinan diverted an Angelo Preciado shot into the net, but the goal was disallowed for offside against Jackson Porozo.
Depay then replaced Steven Bergwijn at the start of the second half but Ecuador soon got their equaliser.
Estupinan was again involved as the Brighton and Hove Albion wing-back's shot was saved by Noppert but Valencia followed in to convert the loose ball.