Late goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen gave Netherlands victory against Senegal in their opening Group A match of the 2022 World Cup.
Gakpo made a perfectly timed run to head home a beautifully weighted cross from Frenkie de Jong, before Klaassen tapped home to seal the win deep into injury time.
The Dutch are now undefeated in 16 matches under coach Louis van Gaal. They also stretched an unbeaten record in their opening game at World Cups that dates back to 1938.
How the Dutch defeated dogged Senegal
Gakpo, who has now scored three goals in his last four internationals, had their first opportunity after four minutes but tried to square the ball to Steven Bergwijn instead of going for goal.
That was followed by a Daley Blind header at the far post that flew wide before Steven Berghuis sent Bergwijn through and he laid it off for the unmarked De Jong in the box.
The midfielder took far too long to release the ball, however, and his effort was blocked.
The African champions were badly missing injured talisman Sadio Mane and did not manage a shot on target until the 65th minute when Boulaye Dia’s tried to sneak one past goalkeeper Andries Noppert, making his Dutch debut, from a tight angle.
Senegal had a bit more possession in the second half but despite the relentless drumming from their small fan group in the stands could not find the back of the net.
To make matters worse, Cheikhou Kouyate had to be taken off injured before Gakpo snuck in to snatch the opening goal.
Klaassen made sure of the three points with a tap-in in stoppage time after Mendy palmed a Memphis Depay shot into his path.
De Jong had a chance to give the Dutch a first-half lead but was crowded out before Ismaila Sarr at the other end had a long-range shot diverted away from goal by Virgil van Dijk.
Dutch defensive nous on show again at World Cup – Opta Stats
- Netherlands have kept four consecutive clean sheets at the World Cup for the first time, while they’re the first nation to do so overall since Spain in 2010.
- Senegal have lost consecutive matches at the World Cup for the first time, while they’ve not kept a clean sheet in the competition since their tournament debut against France in 2002.
- At 71 years and 105 days, Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal became the third oldest manager to take charge of a match at the World Cup, after Otto Rehhagel (71y 317d) and Óscar Tabárez (71y 125d).
- Cody Gakpo’s opener after 84 minutes came from Netherlands’ first shot on target against Senegal, while Davy Klaassen’s strike was their latest ever goal scored in the World Cup (98:17).
- Cody Gakpo has been involved in four goals in his last four games for Netherlands in all competitions (3 goals, 1 assist), twice as many as he had in his first six appearances for the national side (1 goal, 1 assist).
- The average age of Senegal’s starting XI was 28 years and 284 days, their oldest in any of their nine games at the World Cup, and more than two years older than their previous oldest (26y 224d against Colombia in 2018).
- Virgil van Dijk made his 50th appearance for Netherlands in all competitions, but his first at a major tournament. Only goalkeeper Gejus van der Meulen earned more caps for Oranje before playing at a World Cup or European Championship (54, in 1934) than Van Dijk.
What the result means
Ecuador and Netherlands are now joint leaders in Group A after both registering 2-0 wins in their respective openers.
Netherlands face Ecuador in their second group game on Friday, November 25, at 4pm, with Senegal playing host-nation Qatar earlier the same day at 1pm.
The winners of Group A will face the runners-up from Group B, containing England, Wales, USA and Iran. The runner-up in Group A will face the winners of Group B.