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Sunday , January 29 2023

Dutch, Senegal advance; Ecuador eliminated; Qatar winless

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AL KHOR, Qatar, Nov 29, (AP): 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.

Senegal’s Formose Mendy (right), and Ecuador’s Enner Valencia challenge for the ball during the World Cup group A soccer match between Ecuador and Senegal, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar. (AP)

The Netherlands are three-time runners-up at the World Cup, and also finished third in 2014, while Qatar were making their 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 were 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. Senegal can now put the disappointment of 2018 to rest.

Kalidou Koulibaly led his team into the last 16 of the World Cup by volleying home the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Ecuador, four years after the African champions were eliminated from the group stage because of the amount of yellow cards they received. The Senegal captain’s right-footed shot flashed past Ecuador goalkeeper Hernan Galindez in the 70th minute. Koulibaly sprinted toward the corner flag and slid on his knees to celebrate. The result erased lingering memories from four years ago, when Senegal could only draw their last group game in Russia and missed the knockout stage because they had collected more yellow cards than Japan, which advanced instead. In another must-win match in Qatar, Senegal took the lead after a first-half penalty from Ismaila Sarr. Moises Caicedo then scored for Ecuador to make it 1-1 in the 67th. Ecuador would have advanced from Group A with a draw and Senegal would have been eliminated. Senegal last advanced from the group stage at the 2002 World Cup, when the team reached the quarterfinals in their tournament debut and their only other appearance at the event.

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