Louis van Gaal believes the Netherlands must improve considerably if they are to win the World Cup, acknowledging Ecuador were “much better” than the Oranje in Friday’s 1-1 draw.
The Netherlands and Ecuador sit locked together on four points in Group A after Enner Valencia cancelled out Cody Gakpo’s opener at the Khalifa International Stadium, with the stalemate condemning hosts Qatar to an early exit.
Van Gaal’s side were fortunate to hold off a much-improved Ecuador team after Valencia’s equaliser, having scored with the only shot they mustered before the interval.
The Netherlands will only need a draw against bottom side Qatar to claim their place in the last 16 on Tuesday, but Van Gaal believes they must do better with sterner tests to come.
“If you want to become world champions, we need to improve a lot, because the quality of the opponents we have yet to face is at a much higher level,” Van Gaal said.
The Netherlands failed to win a World Cup match after opening the scoring for the first time since 1998 (v Mexico), as Ecuador managed 15 shots to their opponents’ two – the lowest tally recorded by a European team at the tournament since such data became available in 1966.
2 – The Netherlands have attempted just two shots against Ecuador, the fewest recorded for a European nation in a single World Cup match since 1966. Dammed. pic.twitter.com/U6FetmhJAi
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) November 25, 2022
However, the Oranje are now unbeaten in their last 15 World Cup group-stage games (W11 D4), and Van Gaal was relieved by the end of Friday to avoid defeat against impressive opponents.
“I think we did not play a good match,” Van Gaal said. “We didn’t play well in ball possession, that was our problem in the first match [a 2-0 win over Senegal].
“All the second balls, all the duels were for Ecuador. There you cannot win, I believe.
“We’re working on possession, and we will continue to work on that. Whether we will make it, I can’t guarantee that. But I think we have several options in the midfield and I can try them out.
“We have lost sight of the balance here, but we can find it. The clever thing today is that we played the match and have one point against a much better opponent, that’s how I see it.”
Having led the Netherlands to a third-placed finish at the 2014 World Cup during the second of his three spells with the team, Van Gaal has now avoided defeat in all nine of his games at the finals, excluding penalty shoot-outs.
No coach has taken charge of more matches without losing in the tournament’s history, with two-time winner Vittorio Pozzo also remaining unbeaten across nine contests.
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