Netherlands cruise into World Cup knockout phase as Qatar's dismal campaign ends

AL KHOR, Qatar -- Netherlands secured top spot in Group A at the 2022 World Cup after defeating hosts Qatar 2-0 at the Al Bayt Stadium on Tuesday.

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Dutch coach Louis van Gaal handed Memphis Depay and Marten de Roon starts, but it was Cody Gakpo who continued his run of a goal per game here in Qatar as he gave the Dutch a first-half lead with a trademark strike.

Frenkie de Jong bundled in another early in the second half and the Dutch had another effort ruled out after 68 minutes for a suspect handball call given against Gakpo in the build-up to a Steven Berghuis tap-in.

It's the Dutch who progress as group winners, where they'll face the second-placed side from Group B in the round of 16. For Qatar, their campaign comes to an end with zero points from their three matches.

JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Postmatch quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures

Rapid reaction

1. Job done for the Dutch

When the second-placed team from Group B eventually watches this game back, this Dutch performance will give them food for thought, but it will fall short of inducing any panic. There were the moments of class from the Netherlands like Gakpo's finish, but those eye-catching glimpses of potential in this team were rare.

Fans of PSV and frequent watchers of the Eredivisie have seen that goal already this season, as Gakpo cuts in from the left across the face of the box and places the ball in the far corner with his right foot. It was a neat move with his give-and-go with Davy Klaassen -- who has a goal and two assists so far in this World Cup -- creating the necessary space. Gakpo's value is only increasing as he continues to relish in his breakout World Cup.

But bar that, this was a sloppy match. The Dutch had the possession and territory but were wasteful in front of goal. This was Depay's first start in this World Cup having recovered from injury, but his radar was uncharacteristically wayward as he squandered a decent chance in the first half and misplaced passes with the Dutch in decent areas of the field.

The second half had predictably more space. Depay finally managed to trouble the goalkeeper with a close range strike, only for De Jong to bundle in the rebound. They had another breakaway effort disallowed for a handball in the build-up.

So it's a case of job done for the Dutch. They progress to the knockouts with two clean sheets to their name, and seven points. With no injury concerns, Van Gaal will take that. But we're still waiting to see this team come to life for longer than short spells. They left it late to beat Senegal 2-0 in their opener, needing the brilliance of Gakpo to force that, while they managed just two shots on goal in their 1-1 draw with Ecuador last time out. This was straightforward, but they really should have clocked up the goals.

2. Gakpo shines again, but other young stars yet to get chance

Van Gaal's team selection raised eyebrows. In his news conference on Monday, Van Gaal suggested Depay would be unlikely to start as they manage his return, and hinted that the brilliant young talent Xavi Simons may get his shot.

But when the team sheet came through, Van Gaal had Depay up front ahead of Steven Bergwijn, while veteran De Roon started in midfield. This was a chance for the Dutch to put down a marker in the tournament. It would have been the perfect stage for Simons to shine from the outset and offer Van Gaal a true barometer of where he's at.

Simons, alongside his PSV teammate Gakpo, is one of the in-form players in European football, and has excelled in the Dutch league this term. He's catching the eyes of several of the European giants but while he was a late, surprise pick by Van Gaal for the World Cup, we're yet to see him feature in Qatar.

Instead Van Gaal opted for the experienced Steven Berghuis and Vincent Janssen to give the team some impetus in the second half and they made a near immediate impact to combine for a harshly ruled out goal but this game was crying out for Simons to be given a chance.

3. Qatar seal unwanted place in World Cup history books

Qatar finish their World Cup with zero points from three games and, in the process, made history. They are the first host nation to lose all three of their group-stage matches. It's not the return they hoped for, or indeed planned for. From the expectation on opening night, to this quiet affair in the Al Bayt Stadium just nine days on, it was quite the contrast. The stadium wasn't full -- strange given the hosts were in action -- while the only noise punctuating the quiet sky was the relentless drum and that small patch of bouncing fans behind the goal, all dressed in identical maroon T-shirts.

The manager Felix Sanchez said prematch the team would have "preferred to be in a better situation" but also praised what the players have achieved in the years running up to the tournament. He did admit, though, the team is "lagging behind" and that is a fair assessment.

Qatar did trouble their opponents on occasion. They found joy behind the Netherlands' advanced fullbacks, but time and time again, their final ball was wayward, and Virgil van Dijk was able to mop it up without any real pressure.

The team's legacy in this tournament will only be quantifiable in years to come -- with the highlight of their three matches likely their sole goal, Mohammed Muntari's effort in their 3-1 defeat to Senegal. With the World Cup expanding to 48 teams in the next edition, teams of the standard of Qatar will stand a better chance of progressing past the group stage. But for all the expectation around this group, and those daring to dream of a miraculous run, Qatar's team fell short.

Player ratings (1 = worst, 10 = best)

Netherlands: Andries Noppert 6, Denzel Dumfries 6, Nathan Ake 6, Virgil van Dijk 7, Jurrien Timber 7, Daley Blind 6, Marten de Roon 6, Frenkie de Jong 8, Davy Klaassen 7, Cody Gakpo 7, Memphis Depay 6.

Subs: Steven Berghuis 6, Vincent Janssen 6, Wout Weghorst 6, Teun Koopmeiners 6, Kenneth Taylor 6.

Qatar: Meshaal Barsham 6, Boualem Khoukhi 6, Pedro Miguel 5, Homam Ahmed 5, Ismail Mohamad 6, Abdelkarim Hassan 6, Abdulaziz Hatem 6, Hassan Al-Haydos 5, Assim Madibo 6, Almoez Ali 5, Azram Afif 7.

Subs: Karim Boudiaf 5, Mohammed Muntari 6, Ali Asad 6, Musaab Khadir 6, Ahmed Al-Aaeldin 6.

Best and worst performers

BEST: Frenkie de Jong

The Barcelona playmaker was the best player on the pitch. He was the heartbeat of this Dutch performance and, alongside Gakpo, arguably the best Dutch player at this tournament so far.

WORST: Almoez Ali

The Qatar striker had a game to forget for the hosts as he failed to make any dent in the Dutch defence.

Highlights and notable moments

Gakpo's status as one of the breakout stars of the tournament was sealed when he scored his third goal in as many matches in Qatar to open the scoring.

De Jong then gave his team a two-goal cushion. He could hardly have asked for an easier opportunity to score his first-ever World Cup goal.

After the match: What the players and managers said

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal: "Cody Gakpo is a very young player, he's only been playing for PSV for two or three years ... [he] has everything it takes to become a star and plus he has a wonderful personality because he's open to anything and everything ...

"We didn't give away many chances, ball possession was better than against Ecuador and the difference is Memphis is playing as he was involved in those two goals. That's the difference. But we have to bring Memphis into the game gradually and Marten de Roon hasn't played for six weeks, so I have had to adjust my vision in such a way as I had to make sure players who weren't fit could join us and now I am so pleased with that decision. That also applied to Matthijs de Ligt and was injured just before the World Cup, but they've all overcome their problems."

Netherlands forward Cody Gakpo: "We're through, that's what today was all about. I think we were better on the ball than in recent games, we had a little more control."

Qatar coach Felix Sanchez: "We're a country with 6000 licensed footballers, so this was a likely situation. We never thought at any time to set a goal of reaching the round of 16 or the quarter-finals. Our goal was to get here, to compete and see what we could do. We have a long-term plan that does not depend on me or anyone else, so we are going to rest for a few days if you allow us, and then we're going to keep working."

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

At 23 years and 206 days old, Cody Gakpo is the youngest Dutch player to score three goals at a FIFA World Cup.

The PSV forward is the first Dutch player to score in each group-stage game at a single World Cup.

Gakpo joins James Rodríguez and Lionel Messi (both 2014) among the only players to score in each of their team's first three World Cup games at any of the last five tournaments.

Frenkie de Jong scored his second career goal for the Dutch national team. His only other goal came in September 2019 against Germany in a Euro 2020 qualifier.

Qatar are the first host nation to lose three matches at a single World Cup finals.

Qatar finish their World Cup campaign with a goal difference of -6, the worst ever for a World Cup host nation. The previous record was set by Brazil in 2014 (-3), thanks largely to their 7-1 loss to eventual winners Germany in the semifinals.

Up next

Netherlands: As Group A winners, the Dutch will face the runners-up in Group B -- which comprises England, Iran, United States and Wales -- at Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday 6 p.m. local time/10 a.m. ET.

Qatar: The hosts are leaving their own party early but, lest we forget, they are still reigning Asian champions and their next chance to win more silverware comes right after the turn of the year. The Gulf Cup kicks off in January and Qatar will face Kuwait (Jan. 7), Bahrain (Jan. 10) and the United Arab Emirates (Jan.13) in Group B of the eight-team regional tournament that will be staged in Basra, Iraq.