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Winners & Losers

Add a few more million to Gakpo's price tag! Netherlands winners, losers and ratings as Mendy's horror show gifts Van Gaal's men victory against Senegal

1:39 PM EST 11/21/22
Cody Gakpo Netherlands 2022
The in-demand PSV forward was the hero as the Oranje began their World Cup campaign with a 2-0 win in Qatar

Better late than never, as far as the Netherlands are concerned. For long periods of their tight, tedious Group A contest with Senegal, it looked as if Louis van Gaal's much-fancied Dutch side were about to fall flat in their first World Cup match for eight years.

But in Cody Gakpo, the Oranje have one of Europe's most in-form forwards, and the PSV man was the hero at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, taking advantage of a misjudgement from Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to head home a priceless opener for his side, six minutes from time.

It was Gakpo's fifth international goal in 11 appearances, and substitute Davy Klaassen added the icing on the cake in stoppage time, following up after Mendy had pushed Memphis Depay's effort into his path.

The 2-0 win is enough to put the Dutch very much in the driving seat to qualify for the knockout stages. Van Gaal's side, indeed, can seal progression when they take on Ecuador on Friday.

GOAL runs through the winners and losers from Monday's game...

  • Cody Gakpo Netherlands 2022

    The Winners

    Cody Gakpo:

    That's the life of a forward, eh? You can be as quiet as you like for 84 minutes, but one chance, one moment can change everything. That was certainly the case with Gakpo here. The PSV star was, in all honesty, pretty underwhelming for the most part, but when Frenkie de Jong got his head up and teased in a lovely cross from the right, six minutes from the end of the 90, it was he who timed his run to perfection, he who reached it ahead of Mendy and he who made himself the matchwinner. He's been scoring for fun at club level this season, and with a host of European clubs - including at least three in the Premier League - considering a move for him in January, the 23-year-old did himself no harm at all here. After eight years in the World Cup wilderness, the Dutch needed a hero. He arrived right on time, wearing the No.8 shirt and a big, beaming smile.


    All eyes to Al Rayyan on Friday, then, when the winner of Ecuador's clash with the Netherlands will guarantee progress to the last 16. This was a good result for Ecuador, who opened their Group A account by beating a dreadful Qatar side on Sunday. Their fate is very much in their hands, as even a defeat against the Dutch would leave them knowing a win over Senegal in their final fixture would see them through. For Senegal, the task is equally simple. They need two wins, starting against the hosts. They will need to show a lot more punch than they did here.

    Andries Noppert:

    The World Cup loves a story, doesn't it? And the tale of the Netherlands' 6'8 goalkeeper and his unusual journey to the big stage is one to warm the heart. They've had some wonderful goalkeepers down the years, have Holland, but at 28, Heerenveen shot-stopper Noppert is far from a household name. He has played fewer than 100 senior club matches, and as recently as 2021 he was warming the bench for Go Ahead Eagles in the Dutch second tier. He is not a man accustomed to big games, so for him to even be in the Dutch squad is pretty remarkable. For him to make his international debut in a World Cup, ahead of Ajax's Remko Pasveer and Justin Biljow of Feyenoord, is even more so. Noppert didn't have a great deal to do, as it turned out. There was one comfortable piece of fielding from a tame long-ranger by Youssouf Sabaly in the first half, and a smart stop at his near post from Boulaye Dia after the break. Besides, he was tidy enough with his feet and showed good reactions to deny Idrissa Gueye, although the flag would have gone up for offside in any case. All in all, a night to be proud of, and a story that we will surely hear a lot more about in the coming weeks. This was his first cap, but it won't be his last.

  • Edouard Mendy Senegal 2022

    The Losers

    Edouard Mendy:

    For every hero there is a villain, and if Gakpo's day summed up the life of a striker, then Mendy's was the perfect counterbalance. Who would be a goalkeeper? The Chelsea man was largely untroubled for 84 minutes, but his first misjudgement would prove costly, as he ran from his line to punch away De Jong's delivery and got nowhere near it, Gakpo heading into the unguarded net. There would be another mistake for the Netherlands' second goal too, Mendy weakly pushing Memphis Depay's tame shot straight into the path of Klaassen, who gleefully accepted his gift. 2-0, game over. Having lost his club place to Kepa Arrizabalaga recently, this was not a night to rebuild Mendy's confidence. He'll need to put it behind him quickly, or his side will be on their way home.

    Matthijs de Ligt:

    It is fair to say that Louis van Gaal is not short of options to play on the right of his three-man central defence. For this game he selected De Ligt, ahead of the experienced Stefan de Vrij and the up-and-coming Jurrien Timber, but the Bayern Munich man endured a difficult evening against Ismaila Sarr. He was constantly troubled by the Watford man's pace and running power, committing more fouls than any Dutch player. One of them, early in the second half, earned him a yellow card and leaves him walking a disciplinary tightrope for the rest of the group. The Netherlands did, in fairness, finish with a clean sheet, but Timber and De Vrij will feel they are in with a shot of starting against Ecuador. De Ligt will have expected better of himself.

    Sadio Mane:

    We already knew it, but this game simply served to underline it; Senegal needs Sadio Mane. Badly. Aliou Cisse's side matched the Dutch for the most part. They were strong defensively, with Kalidou Koulibaly particularly good, and had plenty of the ball in midfield, with Idrissa Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyate and Nampalys Mendy bright and energetic. But in the final third? Not much. Senegal had 15 shots but only four on target. Sarr was good, denied a goal by a good Virgil van Dijk block, but much of his best work was away from goal, and neither Dia nor Krepin Diatta offered much. This is a tournament of big-name absences, of course, with the likes of Karim Benzema, Reece James, Paul Pogba, Timo Werner and N'Golo Kante all on the missing list. Mane's absence, though, looks like the one that could be most costly, in terms of his side's prospects.

  • Virgil van Dijk Netherlands 2022

    Netherlands Ratings: Defence

    Andries Noppert (7/10):

    Making his international debut, the giant goalkeeper did what was required, making four saves and distributing the ball well.

    Denzel Dumfries (6/10):

    Full of energy but didn't always get the better of the determined Abdou Diallo.

    Matthijs de Ligt (5/10):

    Given a rough time against Ismaila Sarr, and looked uncomfortable on the right of a back three. Booked.

    Virgil van Dijk (6/10):

    Marked his first World Cup appearance, and his 50th cap, the captain had a few scruffy moments but made a good block with his head to deny Sarr and had a couple of chances from set pieces at the other end.

    Nathan Ake (7/10):

    Looked accomplished on the left of the back three, covering well and seeing more of the ball than any Dutch player.

    Daley Blind (7/10):

    The veteran showed he still has the class with a few lovely deliveries from the left. Defensively he was fine.

  • Frenkie de Jong Netherlands 2022


    Frenkie de Jong (6/10):

    A real mixed bag. Dallied with a great chance on the counter-attack in the first half, and put his side under pressure with a few careless moments. But he also looked classy when carrying the ball, and his delivery created the all-important opener for Gakpo.

    Steven Berghuis (6/10):

    One of the brighter Dutch players when he was on the field, the former Watford man put one on a plate for De Jong in the first half and was willing to try his luck from outside the box.

  • Steven Bergwijn Netherlands 2022


    Cody Gakpo (7/10):

    Didn't really get into the game in the first half, when he was starved of service, but timed his run perfectly to head his side in front late on.

    Steven Bergwijn (5/10):

    Lovely hold-up play to help create a good chance for De Jong in the first half, but otherwise the Ajax forward was pretty ineffective.

    Vincent Janssen (5/10):

    One nice pass to release Gakpo early on, but the former Tottenham man looked laboured otherwise, offering little threat before being replaced by Depay.

  • Louis van Gaal Frenkie de Jong Netherlands 2022

    Subs & Manager

    Memphis Depay (6/10):

    Fit enough only for the bench, he added a bit more energy to the Dutch attack. His shot, albeit a weak one, led to the second goal, and he will surely start against Ecuador.

    Teun Koopmeiners (6/10):

    On for Bergwijn, and didn't really add too much.

    Davy Klaassen (7/10):

    In the right place at the right time to seal the win, following up well after Depay's shot was saved.

    Maarten de Roon (N/A):

    On in stoppage time for Gakpo.

    Louis van Gaal (7/10):

    Sprang a surprise with the selection of Noppert in goal, and with Janssen in attack. His team looked composed enough but lacked punch. His substitutes improved them.