Cody Gakpo inspires dominant Netherlands performance

by Ben Ayuko

{image by Getty Images}

Romania (no. 47 in the FIFA world team rankings), who qualified in 1st place in the group stage, would’ve thought that they were guaranteed smooth sailing in the round of 16. Netherlands (no. 7 in the FIFA world rankings), on the other hand, who qualified in 3rd place, would’ve anticipated having one of the tougher draws in this stage. So their relative emotions were definitely filled with confusion and bemusement as hey drew each other. And Netherlands were not going to look this gift horse anywhere, let alone on the mouth.

At the start, the game was more of a tentative affair as both teams took the time to feel each other out and get a gauge on what to expect from each other. It wasn’t until the 20th minute when Cody Gakpo, who had been relatively quiet in the game until then, took everybody by surprise after receiving the ball on the left wing. He cut inside passed the defender and rifled a low hard shot to the goalkeeper’s near post. This proved to be the shot in the arm that the Netherlands team needed as they immediately responded by stepping up a gear and firmly taking control of the game. It was as if Gakpo had given them the confidence to actually show their quality on the pitch. Other players in the team who went on to have a good game include Tijjani Reijnders and Xavi Simmons. Denzel Dumfries was also a constant threat down the right wing.

In the 2nd half, Romania seemed to realize what was happening and opted to hit Netherlands on the counter. A tactic that almost came through in the end if not for some dogged defensive intervention from the Netherlands’ defensive line. Halftime substitute Donyell Manel added some speed and trickery to the Netherlands front line and it was he who, in the 83rd minute, secured Netherlands’ progression into the quarterfinals with a relatively easy tap in from point blank range after some fine work from Cody Gakpo down the wing, that is, beating 2 defenders and the goalkeeper to put it on a plate for Malen.

It was now a formality until the final whistle, but not before Donyell Malen scored another in his own right with the last kick of the game. Picking up the ball in his own half, he carried it down the pitch in a sort of one-man counter attack after captain Virgil van Dijk had the cleared the ball from a Romanian corner kick. He dribbled past the last defender and the wrong footed the goalkeeper with an expert finish.

3-0 the game ended with the Netherlands headed into the quarter finals in rejuvenated fashion as Romania bowed out unceremoniously.

Oh, and Gakpo deservedly won the Man of the Match Award for his contributions.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top