Cody and Klassen score late as the Netherlands win their World Cup opener.
The Netherlands defeated Senegal 2-0 in their 2022 World Cup opener on Monday, with two late goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen.
In the first half at the Al Thumama Stadium, the Netherlands were dominant but sloppy, and they lacked a threat for much of the second half until Gakpo nodded in a deep cross on 85 minutes. Klassen added a second in the closing minute of the game to give Louis van Gaal’s side a good start to the season.
Netherlands shine above spirited Senegalese side
The Netherlands were playing in their first World Cup match since 2014, after failing to qualify for the last event in Russia in 2018.
Senegal, which won the Africa Cup of Nations last year, arrived in Qatar with high hopes but was dealt a significant setback last week when star Sadio Mane was ruled out with a leg injury, and his absence was noticeable.
The Netherlands dominated the first half and applied consistent pressure around the Senegal penalty area, but they were ineffective in front of the goal. In six minutes, Gakpo squared the ball to teammate Steven Bergwijn, whose attempt was blocked, and the Dutch side lost a golden opportunity to take the lead.
In the 18th minute, midfielder Frenkie de Jong found himself in plenty of room with only opposing goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to beat, but he took too long to get a shot across, and the move collapsed.
Meanwhile, Senegal appeared plodding in attack, having missed the menace of Mane.
The Netherlands appeared to be losing control in the second half, and Senegal had a pair of great chances late on as Dutch goalkeeper Andries Noppert, making his international debut, was forced to save from Idrissa Gueye and then from Ismaila Sarr.
In the dying amber of the game, Gakpo and Klaassen helped Netherlands over the line.
The Netherlands are tied for first place in Group A with Ecuador, who defeated Qatar 2-0 in the tournament opener on Sunday.
Dutch captain Virgil van Dijk did not wear the OneLove anti-discrimination armband, despite FIFA threatening to issue a yellow card to any player who did.
Van Gaal said: “I no longer want to answer political questions. This is the time to talk about football and not political issues. One thing is clear — we are not going to wear the armband if we’re getting a yellow card. I think we need to question whether this a correct action on the part of FIFA and you can answer that question.
“Virgil van Dijk after one match is to be given a yellow card! We are here to become World Champions and that is our purpose, which is why we’re not wearing the armband. All of us need to ask ourselves whether this is a proper action on the part of FIFA — that is crystal clear.”