Netherlands 2-0 Qatar | Group A Match review
Goals | Gakpo (26), De Jong (49)
Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands scored once in each half to ease to victory over the hosts and claim top spot in Group A of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
Qatar began brightly enough, Hassan Al Haydos getting hold of a shot from distance but directing the effort straight down the throat of Andries Noppert. The Dutch goalkeeper would be troubled only once more, Ismaeel Mohammad’s swerving attempt awkwardly fielded by Noppert.
The Netherlands had taken the lead by that stage. Memphis Depay was relatively close with an improvised volley over the top on the quarter-hour. But Cody Gakpo’s radar was spot on when the 23-year-old collected Davy Klaassen’s clever pass to dribble into the box and slide his finish into the bottom corner for a third goal in three World Cup games.
Meshaal Barsham saved brilliantly at close quarters from Depay soon after the restart – but the Qatari defenders were slow to react, unlike the wide awake Frenkie de Jong who placed the rebound into an unguarded net.
Steven Berghuis had a goal chalked off for handball against Gakpo earlier in the move and Berghuis clattered the woodwork in time added on. Coach Van Gaal’s team had long won the game, however, and the Dutch will discover their last-16 opponents when Group B concludes later on Tuesday.
Only the most optimistic of Qatari supporters envisaged anything other than a Netherlands victory. But if this riveting World Cup has taught us anything, it is that we should not take any outcome for granted. The longer this game remained 0-0, therefore, the more likely a few of the Dutch players would have experienced uninvited thoughts about the prospect of joining Argentina and Germany on an unenviable list of illustrious football nations beaten by underdog opponents in Qatar.
Setting aside fears over a shock result – and if you lose unexpectedly at a World Cup, expect to receive daily reminders for the rest of your life – Van Gaal’s team needed victory at Al Bayt Stadium to top Group A.
All told, then, the Netherlands would have hoped for an early strike to quash any uncertainty and ease nerves. Sure, it would be overstating matters to say the need for a goal when we reached minute 26 was urgent. But the Dutch really wanted that breakthrough and the identity of the man who supplied it surprised nobody.
Gakpo was asked for a reason in a pre-match press conference whether he felt pressure as the tournament’s most highly-rated young player. His answer was unflappable, just like his finish after gathering Klaassen’s pass in his express stride. Gakpo was a picture of balance and composure as he stroked home his third goal in three matches – one with his head, one with his left foot and this one with his right – to ensure a potentially sticky afternoon would unfold into something rather more straight forward.
Cody Gakpo is only the fourth Netherlands player to score in three consecutive World Cup matches following Wesley Sneijder (2010) Dennis Bergkamp (1994) and Johan Neeskens (1974).
Player of the Match