Kalidou Koulibaly sent Senegal into the World Cup knockouts for just the second time in their history with the winner in Tuesday’s dramatic 2-1 win over Ecuador while the Netherlands eased past hosts Qatar to go into the Round of 16 as Group A winners.
The Netherlands’ dominant victory over Qatar meant only a win would see Senegal through to the knockouts from Group A, while Ecuador would have progressed with a draw.
Senegal opened the scoring through Ismaila Sarr’s penalty late in the first half, but despite managing to keep Ecuador captain Enner Valencia quiet throughout, Brighton’s Moises Caicedo levelled in the 67th minute before Koulibaly sent his team through and Ecuador home.
Senegal manager Aliou Cisse promised before the game his experienced side “would not overthink” the occasion and it was the Africans who opened the game furiously, with Everton’s Idrissa Gana Gueye lashing the ball just wide of an open goal after only three minutes.
Less than a minute later, Ecuador goalkeeper Hernan Galindez needed to bail out his side’s high backline, sliding in to stifle a counter well outside his box.
On the 10 minute mark, Senegal’s Boulaye Dia found himself one-on-one with Galindez, but he cut the ball just wide of the post.
Seemingly sparked into life by Senegal’s fierce opening, Ecuador pushed forward and won a free-kick 30 metres from goal, with the South Americans taking the opportunity for a rare breather before Valencia slammed the ball into the wall.
After the furious opening exchanges, both sides began to settle and the first half looked set to end goalless before Ecuador defender Piero Hincapie clattered into Sarr, giving referee Clement Turpin no choice but to point to the spot.
Sarr stepped up and coolly dispatched a fine spot-kick past Galindez, maintaining eye contact with the keeper as the ball went in.
Ecuador started the second half fresher and more determined, perhaps reassured that the Netherlands’ dominance over Qatar meant they only needed a draw to go through.
From a free-kick, defender Felix Torres rose high to head the ball on to Caicedo, who was waiting at the far post and slammed the ball home.
Senegal struck back immediately and in almost identical fashion, with Koulibaly lurking unmarked at the far post following a free-kick which was deflected into his path by Hincapie.
Coming into the match on a yellow card, Gueye picked up a second-half booking and will miss Senegal’s last-16 game against the winners of Group B.
Netherlands see off hosts Qatar
The Netherlands, needing just a point to be sure of progressing, put one foot in the next round inside the first half-hour as Cody Gakpo scored for a third straight group game.
Frenkie de Jong added another in the 49th minute as the Dutch cruised through in a flat atmosphere at the Al Bayt Stadium.
Qatar, already eliminated before kick-off, suffered the ignominy of becoming the first home team in World Cup history to finish the group stage without a point.
Louis van Gaal’s Dutch side ended with seven points at the top of Group A, while Senegal joined them in the knockout phase as runners-up after beating Ecuador 2-1.
The Oranje will next take on the second-placed team from Group B for a quarter-final spot at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday.
England currently top that section and face Wales later on Tuesday, while the United States play Iran. All four teams are still in the hunt for qualification.
The Dutch have made a solid start as they look to put the disappointment of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia firmly behind them.
Qatar signed off from their long-awaited home World Cup with a whimper, securing their place in the record books as the worst ever hosts on the pitch.
Van Gaal was able to give Memphis Depay his first start of the tournament as the Barcelona star continued his return to full fitness after a hamstring injury.
It did not take the Dutch long to slice through the Qatar defence, although Daley Blind could only scuff a fourth-minute attempt straight at goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham.
The opening goal arrived in the 26th minute as Davy Klaassen played in Gakpo after a neat move also involving Depay.
The PSV Eindhoven winger drove forward and drilled a low strike into the bottom corner from the edge of the box to score his third goal of the tournament.
The three-time World Cup runners-up took advantage of shoddy Qatar defending to double their advantage four minutes after the break.
Depay was denied from close range by Barsham but De Jong reacted quicker than a ponderous Pedro Miguel to poke the ball home from barely a yard out.
Substitute Steven Berghuis thought he had added a third midway through the second half, only for his goal to be ruled out after a VAR check for a handball by Gakpo in the build-up.
There was brief excitement for the remaining home supporters late on when Mohammed Muntari prodded the ball into the net, but the whistle had long since gone for a foul on Virgil van Dijk.
The Netherlands almost piled more misery onto Qatar in stoppage time when Berghuis’ excellent curling strike from range hit the crossbar.