On Monday, the Netherlands defeated Senegal 2-0 at the Al Thumama Stadium thanks to late goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen.
The Netherlands had a lackluster performance in their first World Cup match since the 2014 tournament in Brazil, but they still won all three points.
Gakpo raced into the box and rose in front of Edouard Mendy to meet Frenkie de Jong’s cross with a header to break the deadlock with just six minutes remaining in regulation time.
Louis van Gaal’s side were not convincing, but they did have a second goal deep into stoppage time when Klaassen slotted home at the end of a disappointing Group A match.
After failing to qualify for Russia 2018, the Oranje returned to the biggest stage with a point to prove.
That eagerness resulted in the Dutch creating the first opportunity, with midfielder De Jong dallying in front of goal and being denied a shot on the break.
Just over five minutes before halftime, Steven Berghuis fired an effort over the crossbar, and Youssouf Sabaly responded with the only shot on target of the first half.
With the need for a game-changing spark around the hour mark, Van Gaal turned to Memphis Depay, who had been deemed unfit to start.
Gakpo, however, came up with the elusive first goal with time running out, nipping in ahead of Mendy to meet De Jong’s delivery and nod past the Senegal keeper.
Deep into stoppage time, Klaassen sealed the victory with a simple finish after Mendy could only palm Depay’s tame shot into his path.
What does it imply? The Netherlands is late.
After beating hosts Qatar in the first game of the tournament on Sunday, neither side appeared to have the quality to join Ecuador on three points.
But what had been a dull game erupted late on, with Gakpo scoring out of nowhere and Klaassen coming off the bench to add insult to injury for Senegal.
Klaassen’s goal after 98 minutes and 17 seconds is the second-fastest in World Cup history (since 1966), trailing only Mehdi Taremi’s for Iran in a 6-2 loss to England earlier in the day (102:30)
Gakpo makes an impression in his World Cup debut.
Gakpo, 23, is having an excellent season for PSV Eindhoven and made an impression on his World Cup debut.
Gakpo had only one header in 106 Eredivisie games, but he nodded in his first World Cup goal to stun Senegal.
Senegal is missing Mane’s edge.
Sadio Mane’s absence from this tournament due to injury was a crushing blow, and he was sorely missed.
Senegal lacked the talent to open up the Dutch and was forced to regroup after being hit with late sucker punches.
Facts about Opta:
- Senegal has now lost three consecutive World Cup games, and they have not kept a clean sheet in the competition since their tournament debut against France in 2002.
- Gakpo has scored four goals in as many games for his country (three goals, one assist), more than doubling his total from his first six appearances (one goal, one assist).
- For the first time since Spain in 2010, the Netherlands have kept four consecutive clean sheets at the World Cup.
- Virgil van Dijk made his 50th appearance for the Netherlands in all competitions, but it was his first in a major tournament. Only goalkeeper Gejus van der Meulen (54, in 1934) had more caps for the Oranje before competing in a World Cup or European Championship than Van Dijk.
What comes next?
Both teams return to action on Friday, with Senegal taking on Qatar and the Netherlands taking on Ecuador.