Netherlands edge Senegal as Cody Gakpo shines in first World Cup

Netherlands edge Senegal as Cody Gakpo shines in first World Cup

DOHA, Qatar — The Netherlands set up decisive potential in Group A against Ecuador on Friday by opening their World Cup campaign with a 2-0 win over Senegal at Al Thumama Stadium.

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Goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen in the final five minutes secured a comfortable margin of victory against the African champions, who now need to beat hosts Qatar in their next match to keep hopes alive. for the second round.

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Quick reaction

1. Gakpo snatches a late victory against Senegal

Cody Gakpo lived up to his reputation as one of Europe’s sought-after young strikers by securing a 2-0 win for the Netherlands in their Group A opener against Senegal. PSV Eindhoven striker Gakpo nearly moved to Manchester United in the summer and remains on their radar ahead of the January transfer window. And in his first appearance on the World Cup stage, the 23-year-old ensured Louis van Gaal’s side got off to a winning start and put themselves ahead in the race to qualify for the second round as the group winner.

– Hamilton: PSV star Gakpo ready to shine for the Netherlands at the World Cup

As the match seemingly drifted to a 0-0 draw, Gakpo arrived late in the Senegal penalty area to head Frenkie de Jong’s cross past a hesitant Edouard Mendy into the African champions’ goal. Gakpo had been silent during the match after being deployed in a deeper role by Van Gaal and the Dutch were struggling to make an impact against a Senegal side without their injured talisman Sadio Mane. But with the group winners set to face Group B runners-up – likely Wales or the United States – winning the group means avoiding a potential clash with England, so the three points could be crucial for the Dutch, who made it 2-0 in the final seconds of stoppage time when Davy Klaassen took advantage of another Mendy error.

As for Senegal, although they created a few chances in the second half, they did not hint that they could become the first African side to progress past the quarter-finals in Qatar. Their clash with Ecuador next Tuesday should be the match that will decide their fate.

2. No Sadio Mane, no party for Senegal — And the Dutch will soon be returning home too

We already knew Sadio Mane would be a huge loss for Senegal, but the injury that forced their all-time top scorer out of Qatar 2022 has left Aliou Cissé’s side toothless in attack. Senegal simply pose no threat in the future without the Bayern Munich striker, with Watford’s Ismaila Sarr and Salernitana’s Boulaye Dia nowhere near the level of their star team-mate. They are a team full of talent and with a winning pedigree, having won this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, but without a reliable striker, Senegal won’t bother the tournament’s top teams.

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And the same goes for the Netherlands, who would be in contention to go further in the competition if they only had one striker comparable to their greats of late, such as Robin van Persie, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Marco van Basten. Louis van Gaal’s side have world-class players further back in Virgil van Dijk and Frenkie de Jong, but their attacking players are a level below what the Dutch really need to succeed in Qatar. Memphis Depay, who started as a substitute, was co-top scorer alongside Harry Kane in the European section of the World Cup qualifiers, but the Barcelona striker isn’t going to bother top teams and Luuk de Jong and Wout Neither did Weghorst.

Cody Gakpo could do it, but PSV Eindhoven can’t lift Dutch hopes on their own, even though they won this game with their late header. In all likelihood, the runners-up in this group will face England in the second round and neither Senegal nor the Netherlands are strong enough to beat Gareth Southgate’s side.

3. Where are the missing fans?

In the days leading up to the start of the World Cup, the late rush to buy match tickets was so intense that there was minimal availability left for just six group games. According to FIFA, almost all the tickets had been sold out and we were ready for full stadiums for every game. But the Al Thumama Stadium was far from full for a clash between the African champions and one of Europe’s best-supported sides.

Official attendance was announced at 41,721 – not bad for a stadium listed in the official World Cup guide as having a capacity of 40,000. So where were all the fans and why so many empty seats? In the tournament opener between Qatar and Ecuador, the massive exodus of fans at the start of the second half was one of the most surprising results and raised questions about what kind of fan buys tickets and introduces himself.

These can be locals who have been intrigued by the tournament but have no real passion for the game, hence their early departure from the match against Qatar, or who have just bought tickets and have decided not to attend. Some ticket packages required fans to purchase a bundle of tickets for games they might not even have wanted to attend, but had to do so to get the one for the game that mattered most. But whatever the reason, it’s bad for the World Cup to have such enticing matches in front of banks of empty seats. Perhaps that’s why the incessant noise from the group of Senegalese supporters was so loud – the echo around the half-empty stadium made it incredibly noisy.

Player ratings (1=worst, 10=best)

Senegal: Mendi 5; Sabaly 6, Koulibaly 7, Cisse 6, Diallo 6; Kouyate 6, Mendy 6; Diatta 6, I Gueye 6, Sarr 6; Sun 6.

Subtitles: Jakobs 6, Dieng 6, P Gueye 6, Jackson 6.

Netherlands: Nopert 8; De Ligt 6, Van Dijk 6, Ake 7; Dumfries 6, De Jong 7 Berghuis 6, Blind 6; Gakpo 7; Janssen 6, Bergwijn 6.

Subtitles: Depay 6, Koopmeiners 6, Klaassen 7, De Roon 6.

Best and Worst Performers

BEST: Andries Noppert

The Dutch keeper was making his international debut but the Heerenveen number one showed no signs of nervousness in a standout performance that was as crucial to the win as Cody Gakpo’s goal. A save at the near post by Boulaye Dia in the second half was particularly important.

Worst: Edouard Mendy

World Cups are all about delivering big moments and Senegal goalkeeper Mendy’s failure to properly judge Frenkie de Jong’s cross for Gakpo’s goal cost his side a point. The Chelsea keeper then knocked down a late shot from Memphis Depay to hand Davy Klaassen a second goal in stoppage time.

Highlights and Moments

Senegal fans always come with the vibe.

A second goal in added time sealed victory for the Netherlands and Louis van Gaal’s side got off to a good start.

After the game: What players and managers said

Netherlands head coach Louis van Gaal: “Frenkie de Jong? It wasn’t his best game, but he gave the assist for the winning goal and it’s Frenkie de Jong. It was a very difficult game for us.

“We didn’t have much difficulty when the opponents were in possession of the ball, but I wasn’t happy with the possession of the ball from our side, we were imprecise and ran with the ball too much.”

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

– Netherlands: extends FIFA World Cup group stage winning streak to 7 matches; he is undefeated in his last 14 WC GS matches (last loss: 1994 against BEL)

– Cody Gakpo’s goal is the 6th go-ahead goal in the World Cup by a Dutch player in the 80th minute or later


Senegal: Aliou Cissé’s side will then face Qatar on November 25, then Ecuador on November 29, two games to win if they hope to qualify for the round of 16.

Netherlands: A winning start is exactly what the Dutch needed, and they next face Ecuador on November 25, followed by Qatar on November 29.

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