The Netherlands secured top spot in Group A at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar with a 2-0 win over the hosts on Tuesday. Cody Gakpo helped himself to his third goal in as many matches this tournament as Frenkie de Jong joined him on the scoresheet at Al Bayt Stadium.
Louis van Gaal's men rarely looked flustered and it was a disappointing exit for Qatari coach Felix Sanchez given the chances that the Maroons enjoyed. However, the Dutch showed the difference between simply having chances and actually taking them by scoring once in each half to set up a clash with the runners-up from Group B.
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Memphis Depay was restored to the starting XI after injury and immediately set about trying to open his account with an industrious early showing. Andries Noppert had to be alert at the other end as Qatar carved out a few chances, but the Netherlands were largely in control as they camped in the home half for large parts of the first 45.
The opening goal came on 26 minutes when Davy Klaassen teed up Gakpo who still had a lot of work to do as he maneuvered into space on the edge of the box before firing home. That is now three goals from as many outings for the PSV Eindhoven breakout star and Ajax's Klaassen is also enjoying an underrated tournament with his goal and two assists.
Gakpo is already wanted by a number of the biggest clubs across Europe so Ruud van Nistelrooy's side will be welcoming their youth academy graduate adding to his price tag significantly. Three minutes into the second half and it was 2-0 with Memphis seeing his effort saved only for De Jong to pounce on the rebound and fire home.
"Memphis makes the difference in this system," said Van Gaal post-match. "He was involved at the goals again today. You can say what you want about him, but he is unbelievably important -- I am extremely satisfied."
The Barcelona midfielder has a goal and an assist to his name this tournament and has developed into one of the cornerstones of Van Gaal's side. Steven Berghuis though that he made it 3-0 just minutes after coming on midway through the second half but his effort from a Vincent Janssen assist was chalked off via VAR.
The intensity and tempo dropped for the remaining 20 minutes or so as the Dutch played the game out and Qatar had little more to offer going forward. The hosts leave as one of the worst home nations in recent history with South Africa at least winning a match in 2010 before they exited.
Should the USMNT finish second in Group B, they will face the Netherlands while Iran and Wales can still hope to sneak in as England lead the way. Should Gregg Berhalter's men end up topping their group, Senegal could await the U.S. -- and while you're at it, sign up for our new newsletter covering the beautiful game in all its glory -- including daily updates about the World Cup -- here.