Senegal 0-2 Netherlands: 5 Talking Points as Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaasen leave it late to secure the win | 2022 FIFA World Cup

Senegal v Netherlands: Group A - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Senegal v Netherlands: Group A - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

The Netherlands secured a late 2-0 win over Senegal in their opening game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Monday, November 21.

The Dutch arrived for this game on the back of five wins and one draw in their six games in the UEFA Nations League this year. They topped League A Group 4 with an impressive 16 points.

Senegal, on the other hand, entered this contest on the back of three wins, one draw, and one loss. However, they were dealt a major blow as main man Sadio Mane was ruled out of the World Cup just days before the tournament kicked off.

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Both the Netherlands and Senegal made decent starts to the game as they went back and forth with each other for the initial stages. There was not much to separate the two sides in terms of possession. Senegal kept the ball for 47% of the time in the first period, while the Netherlands kept it for 53% of the time. Despite 11 shots between them, only the home team managed a shot on target.

Neither team displayed enough fluidity to create passing moves to go past the opponent's defense. Despite the Dutch advancing the ball well, their forwards started slow and were unable to test Edouard Mendy in goal. Despite several chances, the teams went into the break deadlocked at 0-0.

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Managers from either side made multiple changes as they looked to take control of the game toward the closing stages. Their possession stats were identical for the second period as the Netherlands narrowly-edged Senegal in the stat. However, both teams were more clinical. Senegal attempted nine shots with three on target, while the Dutch attempted five shots with three on target.

Cody Gakpo carried over his brilliant form for PSV Eindhoven into this World Cup as he scored what seemed to be the winner for the Netherlands after 84 minutes. There was a big chunk of added time at the end of the second half owing to injuries suffered by Senegalese players earlier in the half. That allowed Davy Klaasen enough time to find the back of the net in the 99th minute, putting the game to bed.

The Netherlands held on to kick-start their World Cup campaign with a 2-0 win and will be looking to go deep into the tournament. On that note, let's take a look at the five talking points from the game.

#5. Both the Netherlands and Senegal made slow starts to the game

If the first half was anything to go by, both teams looked as though they were not ready for the occasion. They attempted 11 shots between them with only one shot on target from Senegal. Despite distributing the ball fairly well, neither team looked decisive and sharp in the final third of the opening stages.

Fortunately for both sides, their opponents, too, made a slow start to the game.

#4. Senegal looks incomplete without Sadio Mane

If one compares Senegal's style of play and approach to games with and without Sadio Mane in the side, a big difference will be seen. When Mane plays, Senegal looks fearless in attack, trying to break through defenses from central as well as wide areas. His ability to find the back is crucial for Senegal, as he has scored 33 goals in 92 appearances.

Mane also draws in more than one defender when he is attacking near the opponent's penalty area. This usually allows one Senegalese player to remain free and alert to receive a pass to switch the direction of the play.

Without Sadio Mane, however, they tried to force opportunities from central areas. Players like Cheikhou Kouyate were forced to carry the ball forward from deep in midfield.

#3. Cody Gakpo is the real deal

At just 23 years of age, Gakpo is the main man for PSV and could soon become the face of the Dutch national team as well.

Gakpo had a great season last time out, scoring 21 goals and assisting 15 in 47 appearances across competitions. It was his breakthrough season, earning him admiration from top clubs across Europe. He has made a similarly remarkable start to the current campaign, scoring 13 goals and assisting 17 goals so far. He is just six goals short of last season's output with one half of the campaign left.

Gakpo has also made a good start to his international career. He has scored four goals in 10 appearances, including a goal today on his World Cup debut.

#2. A contrasting evening for 'keepers Edouard Mendy and Andries Noppert

Edouard Mendy struggled for large parts of the game and managed to make just one save despite facing three shots on target. He came out charging to contest Frenkie de Jong's cross toward Gakpo but missed it entirely, allowing the young forward to score after 84 minutes. He then made a weak save off Memphis Depay's shot and saw Davy Klaasen tap-in from the rebound.

Noppert, on the other hand, lacks the experience of his much-decorated counterpart. He made his debut for the national team and kept a clean sheet. He made four saves, of which two were from inside the box.

#1. The Netherlands could surprise many at this World Cup

Not many expected Louis van Gaal's men to steamroll through their Nations League group as they did. However, the Netherlands showed great resilience and determination to play a good brand of football. Their ability to remain calm and patient enough to gauge the situation before reacting to it with intensity is why this team can compete.

It will be interesting to see how they go for the rest of the World Cup.

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Edited by Arnav Kholkar
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