A week ago popular coach Louis van Gaal boldly announced that his Dutch side had arrived in Qatar seeking their first FIFA World Cup title win. The 71-year-old veteran coach Tuesday saw his side add credence to that claim when Netherlands handed Qatar their third successive defeat with a clinical 2-0 victory at Al Bayt Stadium.
For Netherlands, the 2010 FIFA World Cup runners-up, it was their third win in as many matches after PSV Eindhoven striker Cody Gakpo opened the scoring in the 26th minute while Frenkie de Jong found the net in the 49th in front of 66,784 fans.
For Qatar, after having lost to Ecuador and Senegal earlier in the week, it was a chance to end their World Cup journey with an upset win against the 18th ranked side in the world. The Netherlands, tutored by Van Gaal, made sure that it wouldn't happen for the hosts.
In the first half hour the Dutch dominated play but Qatar – trailing by a goal - picked up short momentum in the last 15 minutes before the break. Thereafter the hosts played catch-up for most part of what was entertaining football from the men in orange.
Just four minutes into the first half, captain Virgil Van Dijk found Barcelona forward Memphis Depay with a slick long ball to the left of the Qatar box. Depay was tad slow to position himself as the ball bounced away without causing any damage. Qatar captain Hassan Al
Haydos, playing his 170th game, produced a counterattack but his shot from outside the Dutch box was pouched by keeper Andries Noppert.
Moments later, Daley Blind tried to shoot the ball into the net from close range - following a goalmouth melee - but his feeble shot was punched away by Meshaal Barsham, younger sibling of global track and field icon Mutaz Barshim. Shortly afterwards a stoppage in play took place when Qatar's Ismael Mohammed felt the force of a head butt against Dutchman Nathan Ake. In another stoppage, Davy Klassen rammed his head into Homam Ahmed inside the Qatar box.
Al Haydos and Afif were seen playing at the back as the fear of attacks by the Dutch mounted in the first 12 minutes. Barsham, the young Qatari keeper, was alert to a deflection from his own defender as he dived to his right to collect the ball. Depay, who was inside the Qatari box, sent a volley above the crossbar in the 13th minute as FIFA president Gianni Infantino watched from the stands.
The Dutch - with their relentless attacks - forced a corner after Al Haydos cleared a ball from Denzel Dumfries but the flag kick was wasted much to the delight of Qatari fans.
In the 20th minute, Afif swiveled past a couple of Dutch defenders but his cross from the edge of the box had no takers on the far side. Jurrien Timber blocked a shot from Homam to allow Qatar the first corner in the 24th minute. Another corner followed moments later but
Al Sadd defender Abdelkarim Hassan was wayward with his deflection from inside the box. Afif, in another solo run on the flank, found Homam with a cross that seemed to have too much pace.
Gakpo, seconds later, added his third goal of the tournament in the 26th minute. After a short dribble near the Qatari box where he was chased by Assim Madibo, Gakpo - after a neat cross from Klassen - quickly positioned himself and unleashed a powerful right-footed drive that sailed past the outstretched hands of Barsham. Ismail Mohamed and Al Haydos tried to sandwich Gakpo who exhibited incredible speed and accuracy on his shot for his side's first goal.
Soon after the half-hour mark, Qatar tried to build momentum with a couple of threatening moves but the forwards lacked coordination up front. In the 34th minute, defender Hassan broke free of his marker on the left flank but his cross had no takers with Dutch captain van Dijk easily clearing up the move inside his own box.
In another similar attack, striker Almoez Ali slipped in a neat cross for al-Haydos inside the Dutch box but the Qatari captain was slow to react before he lost the ball.
Marten de Roon found Gakpo with a cross on the edge of the Qatar box in the 40th minute. Gakpo once again found pace on his shot but there was too much elevation on the flight that sent the ball sailing above the Qatar crossbar. From the corner of his eye, a disappointed Gakpo realized the move was declared offside by the linesman.
To summarize Qatar's performance in the first half was the miss from Afif after a neat cross from Hassan close to the halfline. Shockingly Afif had no legs to keep the ball in play and move ahead. On the final touch of the first half, Deepay launched a fierce drive that picked up a late swing and sailed past the goalpost to the right of keeper Barsham.
Netherlands doubled the lead in the 49th minute when Barcelona midfielder De Jong scored from close range. Qatar keeper Barsham had saved a brilliant shot from Deepay but De Jong wasted little time to find the net.
Four minutes from the first hour mark, Qatar suffered another hit-and-miss when Hassan delivered a neat cross into the Dutch box where there was home player to keep the ball in play. A few minutes later, defender Pedro Miguel delivered a near-perfect cross from the left flank but once again the ball sailed away with no Qatari striker in position for a deflection.
With lack of finishing in the front, coach Felix Sanchez made three substitutions that included captain Al Haydos called back. Van Gaal, on the other hand, rolled back Deepay and Memphis to cool the star players for the next round.
In the 67th minute, Steven Berghuis and Vincent Janssen combined to score their side's third goal. Berghuis' easy shot into an empty net from close range was cancelled after a VAR decision showed Gakpo had handled the ball in the build-up.
In the 80th minute, keeper Noppert made a save near his own goalpost before Mohamed Muntari could initiate a move. In injury time, Berguis hit the Qatar crossbar. As Van Gaal looked towards the Round of 16, Qatar coach Sanchez was seen looking for his accreditation at the final whistle.
Qatar's Pedro Miguel in action with Netherlands' Wout Weghorst. REUTERS