Gakpo's header sparks a strong end to a tight contest. (Photo: @FIFAWorldCup)

The Netherlands have started the World Cup strong with two goals in the final minutes of its opening game against Senegal to break their physical defence and take three points.

Cody Gakpo’s header was the difference in a tight 90-minute contest to bag three points to begin the tournament, breaking a deadlock that had fans of both nations on the edge throughout the contest.

Although the score was tied 0-0 for 83 minutes, both teams had opportunities to score and came close on multiple occasions, showcasing their offensive capabilities.

Throughout the match Senegal played aggressively and forced the Dutch on the back foot regularly, playing direct football and moving the ball around the edge of the Netherlands’ box.

On the other hand, the Netherlands created much of their spark on the right side, playing on the counterattack and leveraging 2-on-1 situations with which they could easily create space and attack the Senegalese defence, as midfielder Frenkie De Jong tormented the opposition with pinpoint passing.

The ball movement from the Dutch team almost had them in trouble towards the end of the first half, testing their shifts on defence as Senegal moved the ball quickly when gaining possession.

Senegal’s ability to intercept and pressure their opponent in the midfield created a high-quality shot outside the box in the 65th minute of the game from Boulaye Dia to the bottom right corner, which Netherlands goalkeeper Andries Noppert saved well.

Cheikhou Kouyate was injured in the 69th minute, an injury that severely impacted Senegal’s ability to attack in close-quarters and play the ball through the midfield.

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The forward-thinking ball movement Senegal created in the second half lit a spark in their offence they didn’t implement as much of in the first half, having an open shot to take the lead in the 72nd minute, swatted away once again by the Netherlands keeper.

The difference for the Netherlands eventually came through their wing play and their ability to cross the ball into the box, with De Jong finding Gakpo who’s header clinched the lead and forced Senegal to abandon their defensive structure.

Gakpo was instrumental throughout the contest and created two chances for his teammates before his own goal, earning himself the player of the match.

Nine minutes were added on after the 90-minute mark and Senegal wasted no time attempting to attack, creating multiple scoring chances. However, they were unable to convert and felt the repercussions.

A turnover in the Netherlands half put the Lions on the counter-attack and Davy Klaassen scored at the end of the added time, putting the score at 2-0 and ending any hopes of Senegal claiming a point.

The Netherlands struggled to create many chances throughout the match, something that may be attributed to the omission of star forward Memphis Depay from their starting lineup.

Depay was unlikely to appear in the match at all and was said to have been omitted from the match due to a persistent hamstring problem, yet was subbed on in the 62nd minute for Vincent Janssen.

While the win will make many Dutch fans happy, the Netherlands had less shots than their opposition and will be worried about the lack of attacking firepower if Depay is still not fully match fit.

The Netherlands face Ecuador in their next match in Group A, who also claimed three points in their opening match. Senegal will face Qatar in a chance for both sides to claim their first points of the tournament.

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