Cody Gakpo of the Netherlands celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the World Cup group A soccer match between the Netherlands and Qatar, at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor , Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
AL KHOR, Qatar — The Netherlands finished off the worst showing by any World Cup host nation by beating Qatar 2-0 on Tuesday.
The Dutch advanced to the round of 16 by winning Group A while the Qataris, who were already eliminated, became the first host to lose all three of its group matches at soccer’s biggest event.
Cody Gakpo put the Netherlands ahead midway through the first half with his third goal in as many matches and Frenkie de Jong doubled the advantage five minutes into the second half.
The Netherlands is a three-time runner-up at the World Cup, and also finished third in 2014, while Qatar was making its tournament debut.
The Dutch failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
The Netherlands finished with seven points at the top of the group. Senegal, which beat Ecuador 2-1 in the other group game, advanced in second place with six points. Ecuador was eliminated with four points and Qatar ended with zero.
The attendance at Al Bayt Stadium, which also hosted Qatar’s loss to Ecuador in the tournament opener, was given as 66,784 — nearly at full capacity. There were small pockets of orange-clad Netherlands supporters, and Qatar fans behind one of the goals who chanted in unison and jumped up and down.
At one point during the second half, Qatar fans held aloft a large Palestinian flag that said “Free Palestine” on it.
In the 26th minute, Gakpo took control outside the area, dribbled forward and unleashed a powerful side-footed shot between two defenders that entered inside the right post.
Gakpo became the fourth Dutch player to score in three consecutive World Cup games after Johan Neeskens (1974), Dennis Bergkamp (1994) and Wesley Sneijder (2010). He also became only the second player to open the scoring for his team three times in the same group stage after Alessandro Altobelli for Italy in 1986.
De Jong’s goal came when he sprinted forward uncontested to knock in a rebound from close range following a shot from Memphis Depay.
A possible third goal for the Netherlands by Steven Berghuis was waved off following a video review for a handball in the buildup.
Berghuis then hit the bar in added time.
While the Netherlands dominated the possession and created many more chances, Qatar did push forward on occasion and there was a nervy moment for the Dutch when goalkeeper Andries Noppert had trouble collecting a long-range shot from Ismael Mohamed after Gakpo’s goal.
Gakpo drew level with France standout Kylian Mbappé and Ecuador veteran Enner Valencia atop the tournament scoring chart.
For club and country in all competitions this season, Gakpo has been involved in 35 goals in 29 appearances with 17 goals scored and 18 assists.
That should make the 23-year-old PSV Eindhoven forward the target for an expensive transfer in the upcoming months.
In the round of 16, the Netherlands will face the second-placed team in Group B, which features England, Iran, the United States and Wales.
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