Dutch dynamite! Netherlands winners, losers and ratings as Memphis Depay and Dumfries devastate USMNT to seal quarter-final spot
The Orange Army are on the march and Louis van Gaal is dreaming about the perfect retirement gift.
His Netherlands side are the first to book their place in the World Cup quarter-finals, after a hard-fought 3-1 win over the USA in Doha.
Goals from Memphis Depay, Daley Blind and the brilliant Denzel Dumfries did the damage for the Dutch, with substitute Haji Wright's strike little consolation for the Americans, who paid the price for a sluggish first-half showing.
Not that Van Gaal and his side will care about that, of course. Finalists in 2010 and semi-finalists in 2014, the Oranje will fancy their chances of another deep run here.
They await the winners of Saturday night's Argentina versus Australia clash, and with Memphis and Dumfries in this kind of form, and having conceded only two goals in four games at the tournament so far, they will take some beating.
Here, GOAL runs through the winners and losers of another Dutch victory...
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Memphis has arrived! Eight-and-a-half years on from his last World Cup goal, the Barcelona forward found himself delivering on the big stage again.
Ten minutes was all it took for the Netherlands' talisman to make his mark, and it was a goal worthy of the occasion, too. Twenty-one passes, and then a finish of the highest quality, swept confidently past Matt Turner on the run, at the end of a flowing Dutch move.
It was Memphis' 43rd goal for his country. Only Robin van Persie stands above him on the all-time list now. And think of the names that sit below him; Cruyff, Neeskens, Gullit, Van Nistelrooy, Kluivert, Robben, Bergkamp. Greats of the game.
Having arrived into the tournament nursing a thigh problem, the 28-year-old looks to be finding form at exactly the right time for Louis van Gaal's side. Only a pair of fine Turner saves denied him a second goal after half-time, but his work-rate and movement were key as the Dutch maintained a constant threat on the counter-attack, never looking likely to surrender the advantage Memphis had given them.
Two assists, one goal, one goalline clearance, four huge contributions to a huge World Cup win.
That's what the Inter star is all about. Before today, Dumfries had enjoyed a rather low-key tournament, but he was certainly prominent here, turning in an all-action display which underlined the 26-year-old's class and sent his side barrelling into the quarter-finals.
Dumfries was decisive in the first half. He got his head up superbly to find Memphis for the opener, 10 minutes in, and then repeated the trick right on the stroke of half-time, his inviting cut-back buried by the veteran Blind.
Blind would return the favour later in the game, delivering a perfect left-wing cross for the other wing-back to volley home at the far post, nine minutes from time.
That knocked the stuffing out of the USA, who at 2-1 had belatedly begun to show a bit of urgency and belief. Who knows what might have happened had Dumfries not got back to clear Haji Wright's effort off the line, a few minutes before the American substitute did manage to pull a goal back?
It has been all about Cody Gakpo, in an attacking sense at least, for the Netherlands so far, but here it was about their Deadly D's. Memphis Depay and Dumfries were simply unstoppable.
Louis van Gaal:
He might be 71, but the Netherlands boss remains one of the best tacticians in the business, and this was little short of a masterclass from Van Gaal.
"If you think it's boring, then why don't you go home?" he asked one critic before this game, and he continues to answer questions over his team's style in the best manner possible – by winning games.
Shootouts excluded, Van Gaal is now 11 games unbeaten in World Cup finals – only Luiz Felipe Scolari and Mario Zagalo have had longer unbeaten starts – and his side's success at this tournament has the former Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United manager's fingerprints all over it.
Their system is built on teamwork, discipline and positional play. The Dutch are happy to be without the ball – the USA had 58 percent possession here – knowing they have the defensive structure to cope, and the attacking quality to take advantage on the counter-attack. They work tirelessly, protect their penalty area well and have, in goalkeeper Andries Noppert, one of the surprise stars of the tournament (see below).
At the end here, Van Gaal cut a satisfied figure, and no wonder. He plans to retire (again) after this tournament, and with each passing game, the prospect of a glorious, golden send-off begins to loom larger and larger.
The big tournament gamble has paid off, as far as the Dutch are concerned.
Few would have heard of Andries Noppert a few weeks ago, but the 28-year-old has been one of the key players as Van Gaal's side have worked their way into contention in Qatar.
Only two goalkeepers made more saves than he did in the group stage, and the Heerenveen stopper continued his stellar form here, making big contributions at big moments to help his side into the last eight.
His early save from Christian Pulisic here, snaking out a leg to deny the Chelsea man one-on-one, was crucial. It came with the game goalless and only a couple of minutes on the clock. Had the USA struck first, then who knows how things might have panned out?
Later, Noppert plunged to his left to beat away Timothy Weah's powerful strike, and early in the second half he got an important touch to take the sting out of Tim Ream's close-range effort, with Gakpo able to clear from the line as a result.
He was unlucky to be beaten by Wright's bizarre finish for 2-1, but how quickly he was off his line to stop the same player equalising soon after. Another big moment, in the course of the game.
Much has already been written about Noppert's story – he was close to retiring from football to become a police officer a few years back – but maybe the best chapter is yet to come?
- Getty Images
Goals change games, and so do misses. The first chance of this contest fell to the man the Americans wanted it to fall to, but for once Pulisic couldn't deliver for his country.
Had he taken that second-minute opportunity, the USMNT would have fancied their chances. Instead, Noppert read his intentions, stuck out his left leg and the rest, as they say, is history.
Pulisic, to his credit, never stopped fighting. He set up a goal for Haji Wright, the substitute, but he will look back on that early chance as the big moment of the game, for sure.
Make no mistake, it was a poor first half which cost the Americans here, and that is what their coach will be mulling over when he returns to the his hotel room this evening.
The USA dominated possession in the opening 45 minutes, but the tempo of their play meant they were rarely able to trouble the Dutch once Pulisic's early chance had been saved.
This a side which hurts teams through aggression and energy, but it was lacking in both here. Too often, the ball found itself with Walker Zimmerman and Tim Ream and, with respect, those two are never likely to hurt a team as well-drilled as Van Gaal's.
Only at 2-0, and only really once the situation became desperate, did the US start to really ask questions. Wright made a difference, as did DeAndre Yedlin, but Dumfries' goal killed the game, just when we were preparing for a grandstand finish.
Berhalter looked rather emotional at the end as he comforted his distraught players on the pitch. He knows, and they know, they might have done more here.
Netherlands Ratings: Defence
Andries Noppert (8/10):
Stayed big to deny Pulisic early on, and got down well to push away Weah's fizzing strike. Got an important touch on Ream's prodded effort early in the second half. Unlucky with the American goal but made a big interception to deny Wright soon after.
Denzel Dumfries (9/10):
Great pick out for the opener, and then another for Blind to make it 2-0. Got back well to clear off the line from Wright late on and then capped a mammoth display with a well-taken goal at the far post.
Jurrien Timber (7/10):
Competed well against Pulisic and the lively Robinson.
Virgil van Dijk (7/10):
Important intervention to prevent Dest from equalising and was often there to get the telling touch when the ball went into his penalty area.
Nathan Ake (7/10):
Read the game well, as he has all tournament. Offers a great balance in that three-man defence.
Daley Blind (8/10):
Tentative with an early chance on his left foot, but absolutely clinical with one on his right just before half-time. Then delivered the cross from which Dumfries wrapped things up.
Maarten De Roon (5/10):
Got through plenty of dirty work in midfield, though didn't see much of the ball before being replaced at half time.
Frenkie de Jong (7/10):
Always composed when receiving the ball, and was able to get his team playing forwards more often than not.
Davy Klaassen (6/10):
Played a part in Depay's opener with a neat lay-off before he, like De Roon, was replaced at half time.
Cody Gakpo (6/10):
Heavily involved in the opener, and looked confident whenever the ball went into him. Cleared one off the line at 2-0.
Memphis Depay (8/10):
Superb finish to open the scoring, and twice he was denied by Turner in the second half.
- Getty Images
Subs & Manager
Steven Bergwijn (6/10):
A surprise half-time introduction, he combined well with Gakpo and Depay in a three-man frontline.
Teun Koopmeiners (6/10):
On at half-time, he was booked for taking out Pulisic and drew a fine save from Turner with a stinging low strike.
Xavi Simons (6/10):
Brought on for his international debut, and nearly created a late goal for Bergwijn.
Wout Weghorst (N/A):
Only introduced in stoppage time.
Matthijs de Ligt (N/A):
Late, time-wasting sub.
Louis van Gaal (7/10):
Got his selection and subs right, and his team look perhaps the best-drilled at the tournament.