Monday December 05, 2022

Depay could start for Netherlands against Ecuador

November 25, 2022

DOHA: Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal hinted that Memphis Depay could start Friday’s World Cup group game against Ecuador as the Barcelona star gradually returns to full fitness.

Depay had been sidelined for two months with a thigh injury before coming off the bench for the final half-hour of Monday’s opening Group A outing against Senegal.

He then helped set up one of the goals as the three-time runners-up won 2-0.

“He has played 30 minutes and the next step would be 45 minutes,” said Van Gaal. “The injury he has makes it so difficult to decide when he can start so we have to look at him.

“But he is an extraordinary player and so I have set aside my principles because I consider him to be incredibly important to my team.

“I explained this to the players, that I am doing all this for Memphis, and the players accepted this.”

Opponents Ecuador are hoping star forward Enner Valencia will be fit to play in the match at the Khalifa International Stadium.

The 33-year-old wore the captain’s armband in their opening game against hosts Qatar and scored both goals in a 2-0 victory.

However, coach Gustavo Alfaro said a decision needed to be made about whether he would be able to play against the Dutch after he suffered a knock.

“The tests show there is no injury. That is important, but he took a severe blow,” Alfaro said.

“We will see how he responds in training and decide then if he can play from the start, or come on during the game, or not come on at all.”

Netherlands draw line under armband protests

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal has confirmed his team will not mirror Germany’s mouth-covering protest before their second World Cup group game against Ecuador on Friday.

Germany performed the gesture during their team photo prior to Wednesday’s shock 2-1 defeat against Japan.

The German protest came after they were forced to abandon plans for skipper Manuel Neuer to wear a rainbow-themed “OneLove” armband following threats of on-field disciplinary action by FIFA.

Captains of several European nations had initially hoped to wear the rainbow armbands, which had been viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in World Cup host nation Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

The Dutch camp has said they will not discuss any issues other than football since they invited a group of migrant workers to a training session at their base in Doha last week.

And Van Gaal doubled down on that decision ahead of a Group A clash in Doha between two teams who both won their opening matches at the tournament. “We are here to become world champions,” Van Gaal said at his pre-match press conference.