Gakpo scores again as Netherlands cruise into last 16

Published November 30, 2022
AL KHOR: Frenkie de Jong (second R) of the Netherlands scores against Qatar during their Group ‘A’ match at the Al Bayt Stadium on Tuesday.—Reuters
AL KHOR: Frenkie de Jong (second R) of the Netherlands scores against Qatar during their Group ‘A’ match at the Al Bayt Stadium on Tuesday.—Reuters

ONCE Codi Gakpo got the opening goal, the result was never in doubt. This was a mismatch on paper and that’s how it panned out on the pitch. Qatar never really stood a chance against the Netherlands, whose 2-0 victory saw them cruise into the round of 16 as Group ‘A’ winners.

The 23-year-old Gakpo is the breakout star of this World Cup, and having scored a goal each of the Netherlands’ opening two games in Qatar, he made it three in three in the 26th minute at the Al Bayt Stadium here on Tuesday evening.

Getting onto the end of a delightful one-two with Davy Klassen and had the composure and the feet to get his shot away as three Qatar defenders converged upon him. Meshaal Barsham, the Qatari goalkeeper of Sudanese descent, had no chance as the ball flew into the right corner of the net.

Barsham also had no chance on the Netherlands’ second goal three minutes into the second half. He had just stopped a close range shot from Memphis Depay after a cross to the right but as the ball fell to Frenkie De Jong after he ghosted past the static Qatari defence to thump it in.

Steven Berghuis thought he got a third with the easiest of finishes in the 68th but his goal was ruled out for an earlier handball by Gapko.

Qatar’s journey at their own World Cup ended with them becoming the first host team to lose all their three games.

The problem with this fixture, when the draw was made, was about how the host nation would fill up the stands at the 68,895-seater Al Bayt if the host team was already out of the running. One of the criticisms of Qatar among any other, after it was awarded the right to host the World Cup, was that the country had no football culture.

In Qatar’s opening two games of the World Cup, losses to Ecuador and Senegal, stands had begun emptying once the team fell behind. Out of the last-16 race, empty seats were visible from the kick-off in their final Group ‘A’ fixture against the Netherlands.

Their omnipresent ‘ultras’ were still there, though — a group imported from all across the world made up of those who are working in Qatar.

QATAR’S HIGH POINT

Qatar’s high point came in 2019, when they were crowned Asian champions in the UAE. That triumph had raised the promise of progression and Qatar having a team that will do well in the World Cup it was hosting; the first of the Arab world.

Automatically qualified as World Cup hosts, Qatar — who had never qualified for the tournament — even played as a ‘shadow’ team in European qualification for the tournament as part of their preparation. Results wouldn’t count but matches against the rest of teams in the group — including Portugal — would be friendlies.

Against the Dutch, they did threaten sporadically after going behind but it wasn’t sustained and ultimately not enough. Almost all of the seats at the stadium had filled up as half-time approached — FIFA said the official numbers were close to full capacity at 66,784 — but the atmosphere remained mellow and De Jong’s goal killed off any hopes of Qatar salvaging a draw to end a dismal campaign.

Felix Sanchez’s side, though, have another tournament at home to look forward to next year. And as holders too, after the Asian Cup was given to Qatar due to the Covid-19 policy in China, who were the originally awarded the hosting rights.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

A grave tragedy
Updated 08 Feb, 2023

A grave tragedy

It is hoped that Pakistan continues to send as many personnel and relief goods as needed to Turkiye, Syria.
Pharma shutdown
08 Feb, 2023

Pharma shutdown

IN the midst of an economic and political maelstrom, a fresh crisis threatens the availability of drugs in the...
PSL season
Updated 08 Feb, 2023

PSL season

PSL has provided a launching pad for several of the team’s current stars, and for them, hitting top form will be key.
No pardon for rape
Updated 07 Feb, 2023

No pardon for rape

Cultural filters and biases can often lead to faulty applications of the law.
Health insurance
07 Feb, 2023

Health insurance

THE planning ministry is reported to have raised objections to Punjab’s flagship universal health coverage...
The people’s demands
07 Feb, 2023

The people’s demands

AS the people of KP are literally on the frontline of the battle against terrorism and violent extremism, they are...