The Netherlands suffered until the end to win 2-0 against Senegal in Group A, in which they now remain as leaders along with Ecuador, who beat Qatar yesterday. Cody Gakpo , at 84′, converted with a header and Davy Klaassen at 90+9′ stretched the advantage for those led by Louis van Gaal.
Without Sadio Mané , the great Senegalese figure, those trained by Aliou Cissé played evenly against the great favourite. In fact, they had their chances: from the statistics they had 15 shots against 10 for the Dutch, although they were the ones who showed greater possession of the ball.
At a general level, Senegal was solid defensively and had criteria when making plays. So far it was the country that played the best among those that did not start as favourites. Both Qatar against Ecuador and Iran against England did not show a performance up to the rival.
Undoubtedly, the loss of the Bayern Munich striker is notable in the offensive part, because although they made dangerous plays, they lacked that final stitch full of speed and talent to capitalize on opportunities.
Meanwhile, those of van Gaal generated game circuits although they did not reflect the effectiveness they had been having. The triangulation was not what he expected and the game ended up opening with the entry of Memphis Depay at the end, who pivoted together with Frenkie de Jong, his Barcelona teammate.
Runner-up in 1974, 1978 and 2010, no finalist has struggled as much to be World Cup champion as the Netherlands, which still yearns to conquer the world, still impossible for the ‘oranje’ team, which disappeared from Russia 2018, reunited with that challenge in Qatar 2022 under the direction of Louis Van Gaal and faced this Monday in its premiere against Senegal, diminished by the final loss due to injury of its most decisive figure: Sadio Mané.
There have been teams that have ranked second in the tournament more times than the Netherlands, such as Germany -four times-, or at least the same times as Argentina, but no team has reached the World Cup final so many times without having won the title as the orange team, which did not lose in its first game since 1938 against Czechoslovakia and which has only lost two of its thirty games in the group stage of the tournament: against Scotland in 1978 and Belgium in 1994.
There are four editions without losing any match in this first round. Neither in France 1998 nor in Germany 2006 nor in South Africa 2010 nor in Brazil 2014, between the ups and downs of each four-year cycle of a team that was fourth in 1998, but, suddenly, was left out of Japan and Korea 2002, or who finished runner-up and third in the sequence of tournaments between 2010 and 2014, but didn’t even compete at Russia 2018. Now she’s back on her feet. And rediscovers his sleeplessness.