Two late goals saw the Netherlands beat Senegal 2-0 in their FIFA World Cup (WC) Group A opener and extend their unbeaten run in WC opening matches to nine.
With the often outspoken Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal suggesting his side “don’t have the best players” in the lead-up to this game, it perhaps came as no surprise to see his side being wasteful in the opening stages. Cody Gakpo spurned a great opportunity to fire the Netherlands ahead, before Frenkie de Jong dithered on the ball inside the area when he only had Édouard Mendy to beat. Senegal found it tough going for large parts of the opening 45 minutes, but Ismaïla Sarr’s fierce effort that was headed to safety by Virgil van Dijk proved that CAF’s top-ranked nation wasn’t here to make up the numbers.
The second half followed a much similar pattern, with the Dutch in the ascendancy, while Senegal looked dangerous on the break. Having played a key role in denying Sarr towards the end of the first half, Van Dijk showed his attacking prowess early in the second, thundering a header goalwards that flew narrowly over the bar. Despite being on the back foot for most of the match, the best chance of the game arguably fell the way of Senegal, but as Boulaye Dia wriggled a yard in the box, he couldn’t direct his effort on target.
Senegal’s resistance was proving difficult for the Netherlands to break down, and it was the Lions of Teranga who initially looked likely to score a late winner, but some impressive goalkeeping from debutant Andries Noppert was enough to rebuff the advances of Idrissa Gueye. Just as the game was heading for a draw, the Dutch prodigy Gakpo stepped forward to head home De Jong’s enticing delivery. Davy Klaassen then added a second deep into stoppage time to wrap up all three points for the Netherlands in what was their first game at a World Cup since 2014.