Netherlands 2-0 Senegal: The Late, Late Show Saves the Dutch
There was only one 0-0 at the 2018 World Cup across the entire tournament – Denmark versus France in the group stage. It looked like that tally would be equalled at Qatar 2022 just three games into the tournament, but two goals late in the day won the Dutch all three points.
Cody Gakpo’s been in sensational form at club level with PSV Eindhoven, and to date has an astonishing 30 goal involvements in 24 games – one every 65 minutes. He was the hero in this match for the Dutch, scoring his fourth international goal – all in separate matches and all in wins. Davy Klaassen added a second in the 99th minute of action, but it was Gakpo’s goal that turned the game.
Incidentally, Klaassen’s goal on 98:17 was the latest scored in normal time for the Netherlands at a World Cup and the second latest scored by any side in recorded history (since 1966) – only beaten by Mehdi Taremi’s 102:30 penalty for Iran against England earlier today.
After being treated to eight goals in that England 6-2 Iran match earlier today, we witnessed a much cagier affair in this Group A encounter – slightly understandable, with neither side wanting to lose what will be their hardest group match (…on paper) ahead of meetings with Qatar and Ecuador. Senegal did lose, but probably undeservedly so. They’ll be confident of getting the results needed in the remaining two matches of the group stage.
Louis van Gaal oversees the Netherlands for a second World Cup tournament, after guiding them to the 2014 semi-finals, before losing to Argentina. At 71 years and 105 days old, van Gaal is the third oldest manager to take charge of a World Cup match behind only Otto Rehhagel and Óscar Tabárez. Should he take the Netherlands into the semi-finals once again this year, the legendary Dutch coach would overtake Tabárez in the ranking.
This was his 38th win as manager of the Netherlands – a new record for the Dutch national team, overtaking Dick Advocaat’s 37 victories.
Van Gaal sprung a surprise with his starting XI for this game, by naming Andries Noppert in goal for the Netherlands. Not only was this Noppert’s World Cup debut, but he won his first ever cap for his national side across all competitions, as he became the first sc Heerenveen player to make a tournament appearance for the Dutch.
Senegal’s success at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year was built on a watertight defence that only conceded two goals and allowed 12 opposition shots on target across seven matches. It was much of the same in this game, with Édouard Mendy’s goal well protected and the Dutch attempting 10 shots worth 0.61 xG – 0.29 of those expected goals coming in the 84th minute or later. In fact, Gakpo’s goal was their first shot on target, 83 minutes and 51 seconds into the game.
The last two winners of the World Cup – France in 2018 and Germany in 2014 – were losing finalists 12 years before they lifted the title. Should that run continue, the Netherlands would win this World Cup after losing the 2010 final to Spain. On this evidence, that looks a stretch too far.