The Oranje scored early through a bullet strike from PSV Eindhoven forward Cody Gakpo but that was one of only two efforts on target they had in the whole match.
Ecuador in contrast put in a barnstorming display and were unlucky to come away with only a draw, as captain Enner Valencia seized on a rebound to score his third goal of the tournament early in the second half.
The South Americans had a goal disallowed on the stroke of half-time and also hit the crossbar just prior to the hour mark, and Van Gaal admitted the point was about the only positive he could take from the game.
“I think we did not play a good match,” the veteran coach said.
“We didn’t play well in ball possession, that was our problem in the first match. And all the second balls, all the duels were for Ecuador. There, you cannot win I believe.
“We’re working on (keeping) possession and we will continue to work on that. Whether we will make it, I can’t guarantee that. But I think so, we have several options in the midfield and I can try them out.”
The clever thing today is that we played the match and have one point against a much better opponent, that’s how I see it.
Louis van Gaal
Asked whether his squad needed leaders, Van Gaal added: “I don’t think it’s that easy, we had so many different players playing the ball to the wrong colour. It’s a process that we need to find (the answer to) in the practice sessions.
“We have lost sight of the balance here, but we can find it. The clever thing today is that we played the match and have one point against a much better opponent, that’s how I see it.”
Ecuador coach Gustavo Alfaro was impressed by how his side acquitted themselves.
“We have a great leader in Enner Valencia, but the rest of our squad are young and lack that experience,” the Argentinian said.
“What I told them before the match was it’s OK to admit we’re not as good as our opponent. There’s no wrong in doing that. We prepared this match with great confidence.
“It’s a learning curve, we had to gain maturity. We might go through, we might not, but nothing will change the perception I have of my players. We’re talking about players with a great future ahead of them.”
The result meant Qatar are eliminated after two matches and join South Africa in 2010 as the only hosts to fail to make it out of the group phase.
The final matches on Tuesday will now be a three-way tussle for two spots in the last 16.