Netherlands battle Ecuador to draw
© AFP

Robin van Persie's sensational equaliser provided one of few bright moments as Netherlands got their FIFA World Cup™ preparations underway with a 1-1 draw with Ecuador. His exquisite volley levelled the scores after Ecuador winger Jefferson Montero got in behind Holland's defence to put the visitors in front early on.

Louis van Gaal experimented with his team for the friendly, with big players such as Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder not featuring at the Amsterdam Arena as their domestic seasons continued. But even so the Dutch, who were runners up in South Africa four years ago, would have expected a better showing.

Montero gave Ecuador the surprise lead they deserved in the eighth minute, sliding it low past Jasper Cillessen after Holland's backline were caught napping. They showed it was no flash in the pan by controlling large parts of the first half as the Dutch toiled, but Van Persie scored one of his specials to drag Holland back into it in the 37th minute.

He took Jordy Clasie's hopeful long ball forward on his chest, knocking it past his marker and into the box in the process, before opening up his body to smash into the top corner with a spectacular left-footed volley. Up to that point the Manchester United striker had been fairly quiet, but his emphatic finish shows he is on course to find top gear ahead of next month's showpiece in Brazil.

Ecuador's own World Cup plans were dealt massive blows either side of half time as strikers Felipe Caicedo and his replacement Fidel Martinez both had to be carried off. Reinaldo Rueda's side will face Switzerland, France and Honduras in Group E and they will need everyone available if they are to spring an upset.

In the opposite dugout Van Gaal, who is widely tipped to take over at Manchester United, will not have been happy as his team could only show flashes despite Ecuador's goal threat being all-but nullified. As the second half drew on, substitutions from both managers began to disrupt the game and they seemed quite happy to just play out a draw.