Netherlands 3-1 Ecuador: What’s your prediction?
With the Netherlands and Ecuador both coming off 2-0 wins in their openers, the meeting at Khalifa International Stadium on Friday carries added significance as it could decide who takes the top-spot in Group A.
While Ecuador have set their target of reaching the last 16, as they did in Germany in 2006, the Dutch will aim for a vastly improved performance against the South Americans to back up Van Gaal's assertion that they can go on and win the World Cup.
The Netherlands were far from their efficient best in beating African champions Senegal 2-0 and are wary of an Ecuador side that Van Gaal views as a far bigger challenge.
25th November, 10:00 pm, Bangladesh time
Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar
Prediction: Netherlands 3-1 Ecuador
* Netherlands have been runners-up at three World Cups and are competing in their 11th finals.
* They finished top of their World Cup qualifying group and are unbeaten in 16 games since their elimination at the last European Championship by the Czech Republic.
* Netherlands began their Group A campaign with a 2-0 victory over African champions Senegal.
* Ecuador are playing in their fourth World Cup with aspirations to surpass their previous best performance when they reached the last 16 in Germany in 2006.
* Ecuador secured South America's last automatic qualifying spot by coming fourth in a perennially tough group, winning seven games and scoring 27 goals in the 18-match slog.
* Ecuador handed a first ever defeat to a World Cup host when they beat Qatar 2-0 in their opening Group A game.
The two nations have only played each other twice, both in friendlies. The Dutch won 1-0 in 2006 and they drew 1-1 in 2014.
Netherlands: (3-4-1-2) Andries Noppert (GK), Daley Blind, Nathan Ake, Virgil van Dijk (capt.), Jurrien Timber, Denzel Dumfries, Davy Klaassen, Teun Koopmeiners, Frenkie de Jong, Steven Bergwijn, Cody Gakpo.
Ecuador: (4-4-2) Hernan Galindez (GK), Felix Torres, Piero Hincapie, Pervis Estupinan, Michael Estrada, Angelo Preciado, Jackson Porozo, Gonzalo Plata, Moises Caicedo, Jhegson Mendez, Enner Valencia (capt.)
Netherlands at the World Cup
FIFA Ranking: 8
The Netherlands have been runners-up at three World Cups, coming close to being crowned world champions but missing out on each occasion. They were ahead against West Germany in the 1974 final in Munich before losing 2-1 and four years later took hosts Argentina to extra time in the final in Buenos Aires before going down 3-1. They also reached the final in Johannesburg in 2010 where Spain defeated them 1-0 in extra time. Qatar will mark the 11th time the Dutch have competed at the finals. After finishing third in Brazil in 2014, they did not qualify for the last tournament in Russia.
How they qualified:
The qualification campaign began bleakly with a 4-2 loss in Turkey but by the time Louis van Gaal returned as coach in August last year the Dutch had six points out of a possible nine. Van Gaal's reign started with a draw away in Norway, followed by a 6-1 thrashing of the Turks that catapulted the Dutch into the group lead. They could have made sure of top spot in Group G had they held on to a 2-0 lead away in Montenegro but were held to a 2-2 draw, meaning it all depended on their last match at home to Norway which they won 2-0.
The Netherlands are unbeaten under veteran coach Van Gaal and since their surprise elimination at the last European Championship by the Czech Republic cost Frank de Boer his job. They finished top of their World Cup qualifying group and then also their Nations League group, easily seeing off highly ranked neighbours Belgium, and will host next year's four-team Nations League finals tournament. Their record since Van Gaal's return to the post is 11 victories in 15 matches with four draws, scoring 41 goals in the process.
Ecuador at the World Cup
FIFA Ranking: 44
Having never qualified for a World Cup in the 20th century, Ecuador then made it to four out of six including Qatar.
Their best performance was in Germany in 2006 when they reached the last 16 after wins over Poland and Costa Rica, before being eliminated 1-0 by England thanks to a David Beckham free kick. They fell at the group stage in 2002 and 2014.
How they qualified:
Ecuador secured South America's last automatic qualifying spot by coming fourth in a perennially tough group, winning seven games and scoring 27 goals in the 18-match slog.
Notable performances included a 4-2 win over Uruguay and 6-1 thrashing of Colombia, both in the altitude of Quito, and a 2-0 win away to Chile. They also managed creditable draws with heavyweights Brazil and Argentina. Only those two giants and Uruguay came above Ecuador in the 10-team group.
Since celebrating their berth in Qatar, Ecuador have beaten both Nigeria and Cape Verde 1-0 and drawn 0-0 against World Cup-bound Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Japan in friendlies.