DOHA, Qatar- The Netherlands has set the stage for an eventual Group A decider against Ecuador on Friday, starting the World Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory against Senegal at the Al Thumama stadium.
The goals of Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen in the final minutes gave the team a comfortable win against the African Champions, who have to beat the host nation of Qatar at their next match to keep their hopes alive in the second round.
1. Gakpo snatches a late win against Senegal
Cody Gakpo lived up to his reputation as one of the most sought-after new forwards across Europe when he scored a 2-0 victory against the Netherlands in their opener in Group A against Senegal.
PSV Eindhoven forward Gakpo was close to making the possibility of a move to Manchester United during the summer but is still in their sights in the upcoming February transfer window. Also, in his debut game at the World Cup stage, the 23-year-old made sure that Louis Van Gaal’s team had a successful start and earned themselves an edge to go through to the next round as the group winners.
As the game seemed to be heading towards a draw, Gakpo came on at the end of the Senegal penalty box to send Frenkie de Jong’s cross through a reluctant Edouard Mendy in the African champion’s goal. Gakpo was silent throughout the game, having been positioned more centrally to the left by Van Gaal. The Dutch could only establish themselves against the Senegal team with their injured star player Sadio Mane.
However, with the winners of the group expected to take on the runners-up in Group B, possibly Wales and possibly in the USA, and perhaps the USA winning the group could mean that they avoid an eventual clash with England as well, which means those three points may prove crucial for the Dutch. They made two goals in the last few seconds of stoppage-time in the final seconds when Davy Klaassen capitalized on another Mendy mistake.
For Senegal, although they had several chances in the second half, they didn’t show they were one of the very first African teams to reach the quarterfinals of Qatar. Their match with Ecuador next Tuesday is expected to be the game that determines their fate.
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2. There’s no Sadio Mane, no party in Senegal — and the Dutch are expected to return home shortly too.
We’ve known for a while that Sadio Mane was a massive loss for Senegal, and the injuries that have forced their record goalscorer to withdraw from Qatar 2022 are leaving Aliou Cisse’s team without a weapon in attack. Senegal has no chance of moving forward in the absence of Sadio Mane.
Bayern Munich forwards Watford’s Ismaila Sarr and Salernitana’s Boulaye Dia are far from the same level as their superstar partner. They’re a team with potential and a winning reputation, and they have won the tournament this time, the Africa Cup of Nations. However, without a solid player, Senegal cannot challenge the tournament’s top teams.
This is also true for the Netherlands, which could be an excellent contender to go deep into the race with just one striker comparable to their most significant players in the past, such as Robin van Persie, Ruud van Nistelrooy, or Marco van Basten. Louis van Gaal’s squad has elite players further back, including Virgil van Dijk and Frenkie de Jong. However, their attacking players are below the level that the Dutch require to win in Qatar.
Memphis Depay, who started as a substitute, was the joint top scorer with Harry Kane in the European section of the World Cup qualifiers. Still, the Barcelona forward isn’t likely to threaten the best teams, nor are the likes of Luuk de Jong or Wout Weghorst.
Cody Gakpo might, but the PSV Eindhoven can’t carry Dutch hopes by himself, although he was able to win this match with his last-minute goal. The runners-up of this group will likely play England at the end of the round. Neither Senegal nor the Netherlands can defeat Gareth Southgate’s squad.
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3. Where are the fans that have disappeared?
In the days before the beginning of the World Cup, the late rush to purchase game tickets was so hectic that there was a limited supply of six games in the group. According to FIFA, most tickets were sold, and we could expect the stadiums to be full for every match.
However, Al Thumama Stadium was far from complete for a game against two African Champions and Europe’s top-supported teams.
The official number of fans was listed as 41,721 – which is pretty good considering a venue listed as part of the Official World Cup guide with a 40,000-capacity. Where were the supporters, and why was there a lack of seats? When the tournament’s first match was between Qatar and Ecuador, the mass crowds leaving at the beginning of the second half were among the most shocking outcomes. It caused questions about what kind of fan was purchasing tickets and then not showing into the stadium.
Locals may have been intrigued by the event but have yet to possess a passion for the sport and have therefore opted to stay away from the Qatar match, or they may have purchased tickets but decided not to participate. Specific tickets demanded fans buy tickets to games they might not have desired to attend.
However, they had to do it so that they could get the tickets for the match that mattered the most. Whatever the reason, having the World Cup with such exciting games in front of rows of empty seats is not a good thing. That could be why the constant roaring from the Senegal fans is so loud. The echo that echoed around the stadium was incredibly loud.
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Player ratings (1 = worst, 10 = best)
Senegal: Mendy 5; Sabaly 6, Koulibaly 7, Cisse 6, Diallo 6; Kouyate 6, Mendy 6; Diatta 6, I Gueye 6, Sarr 6; Dia 6.
Subs: Jakobs 6, P Gueye 6, Dieng 6, Jackson 6.
Netherlands: Noppert 8; De Ligt 6,Ake 7, Van Dijk 6, Dumfries 6, Berghuis 6, De Jong 7, Blind 6, Janssen 6, Gakpo 7, Bergwijn 6.
Subs: Depay 6, Klaassen 7, Koopmeiners 6, De Roon 6.
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Best and worst performers
BEST: Andries Noppert
The Dutch goalkeeper made his international debut. However, this Heerenveen number one did not show any indication of nerves in the game, putting in a fantastic performance that was as important to the victory as the goal scored by Cody Gakpo. A close-post save by Boulaye Dia in the second half was crucial.
WORST: Edouard Mendy
World Cups are about delivering in big moments. Senegal goalkeeper Mendy’s inability to accurately evaluate Frenkie de Jong’s pass for Gakpo’s goal cost him one point. The Chelsea keeper also missed a Memphis Depay effort to grant Davy Klaassen the second goal in stoppage time.
Highlights and notable moments
The same vibes always accompany Senegal fans.
The game’s second goal in the final minute was the last straw in the Netherlands’ victory, as Louis van Gaal’s men are off to a flying start.
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After the match: What the managers and players said
Netherlands Head Coach Louis van Gaal :“Frenkie de Jong? He could have had a better performance. However, his contribution to the goal won it, and that’s Frenkie de Jong. It was a challenging game for us.
“When the opponent had the ball, we didn’t have too many problems, but I wasn’t happy with our ball possession; we were inaccurate and ran with the ball too much.”
— Netherlands is extending its winning streak during the FIFA World Cup Group Stage to seven games; it has not lost in its last fourteen WC GS games (last loss to BEL: 1994 BEL)
Cody Gakpo’s goal is the 6th goal to go ahead during the World Cup by a Netherlands player in the 80th minute or later.
Senegal: Aliou Cisse’s team will play Qatar next in November. 25 and Ecuador in November. 29. Both must-win games to progress to the knockout stages.
Netherlands: A winning start is precisely what the Dutch needed. They will take on Ecuador the next time in November. 25 before playing Qatar in November. 29.
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