World Cup Group A: The favorites advance

It is finally the last matchday of the Group Stage, which means the World Cup will have to bid farewell to half of the teams. And congratulations to the other half. Your journeys for glory continue.

Group A was the first to come to a close. The table consisting of the Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador, and host Qatar produced some great matches. Coming to the last fixtures, the Netherlands and Ecuador tied for first, with four points, followed by Senegal, with three points, and Qatar, with zero. Except for the host, all three teams have their chances to advance.

The Netherlands easily cruised through Qatar

The Netherlands put two past Qatar. Photo Credit: NDTV Sports

This World Cup has been challenging for the host on the pitch. They are nowhere near the caliber of the rest of the group. A loss is predetermined when facing off against one of the giants in football in the Netherlands.

Louis van Gaal’s men took over the game from the beginning. But they had to wait until the 26th minute when Cody Gakpo perfectly placed the ball in the bottom corner with his right foot, his third goal in three games. In his three goals, the 23-year-old has used his head, left foot, and right foot to score.

In the second half, Qatar continued to display a disheartening spirit on both sides of the ball. And under 5 minutes after the break, Frenkie de Jong doubled the margin with a tap-in after Memphis Depay missed from close range. After that goal, the Oranje decided to tone down the pace to protect the lead. They still managed to put the ball in the back of Qatar’s net again. Unlucky for Steven Berghuis as this goal was ruled out due to a handball from Gakpo prior to the through-ball. The Netherlands took first place.

Senegal edged out Ecuador

Kalidou Koulibaly won it for Senegal. Photo Credit: Sporting News

Ecuador just needed at least a draw to advance. Meanwhile, Senegal must win if they want to overtake its direct opposition.

With that in mind, Ecuador approached the game with a defensive mindset. They played less aggressively than in the previous two matches and left the game for Senegal. The plan worked beautifully until the 44th minute. Piero Hincapie, who was outstanding in this campaign, immaturely fouled Ismaila Sarr in the box. And Ismaila Sarr himself converted the penalty to put Les Lions de la Teranga in charge.

Knowing they are in trouble, the Ecuadorian attack massively in the second half. Brighton and Hove Albion standout Moises Caicedo pulled one back for Ecuador after a Felix Torres assist. But their joy didn’t last long. Senegalese captain Kalidou Koulibaly took advantage of the chaotic situation to volley a beautiful goal in just three minutes after Ecuador’s equalizer. The attacking efforts of the South American side in the rest of the game didn’t pay off.

Senegal advances to the Round of 16 in second place, and Ecuador heads home. Despite the elimination, Ecuador definitely won the fans’ hearts.

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