Netherlands vs United States of America. FIFA World Cup Round of 16.
Khalifa International StadiumAttendance44,846.
Match report as Louis van Gaal steers the Netherlands into World Cup quarter-finals, where they will face Argentina; Memphis Depay and Daley Blind give the Dutch a first-half lead but they need Denzel Dumfries to restore their advantage after Haji Wright's unusual strike
Sunday 4 December 2022 13:32, UK
Denzel Dumfries starred as the Netherlands saw off a spirited second half from USA to win their last-16 tie 3-1 and book their place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
First-half goals from Memphis Depay (10) and Daley Blind (45+1), swept home in similar fashion from Dumfries crosses, put the Dutch in control but USA forced both the Inter Milan defender and Cody Gakpo to clear off the line before Haji Wright produced an "impossible" 76th-minute finish to set up a big finale.
Standout performer Dumfries ended their hopes of a dramatic turnaround, though, volleying in Blind's cross in the 83rd minute to secure the victory.
USA had been boosted by Christian Pulisic being passed fit to play but the Chelsea forward wasted a glorious opening just three minutes in, shooting at Andries Noppert when clean through.
From then on, the Netherlands soaked up pressure well through the first half and repeatedly threatened on the counter-attack - an effective tactical ploy from Dutch boss Louis van Gaal, whose sole defeat in his 11 World Cup matches in charge to date came on penalties against Argentina in 2014.
USA opened the game up after the break but came out on the wrong end of the chaos. Their youthful side will have to take their learnings from Qatar into the 2026 World Cup, when they will be joint-hosts.
As for the Netherlands - into the last eight for the fifth time in their last six World Cups - they will now turn their attentions to facing Argentina at the Lusail Iconic Stadium at 7pm on Friday December 9.
From the very first whistle, the Netherlands backed off and allowed USA to have possession. It almost backfired when Pulisic was played in and should have converted a one-on-one in the early moments of the match, but the opening goal showed the threat of Van Gaal's side when they accelerate up the pitch in possession.
Dumfries' precision cutback for Depay was clinically converted at the end of an excellent team move of 20 passes to put the Dutch ahead against the early run of play.
Throughout the rest of the half, the Netherlands invited USA on but, with their opponents struggling to pick the passes through the lines, it was the side in orange most threatening, with Blind shooting over and Depay firing across goal at the end of swift counter-attacks which exposed the lack of pace at the heart of the Americans' defence.
Noppert saved well from a Yunus Musah drive as USA began to build some momentum towards the end of the half but the underdogs were hit by a hammer blow on the stroke of half-time, when Blind converted a carbon copy finish of Depay's opener from another Dumfries' centre.
USA came flying out of the blocks in the second half as they attempted to get back into the tie. Sub Giovanni Reyna saw a shot cleared off the line by Gakpo, Pulisic hit the target and Weston McKennie shot over as they threw bodies forward - but at the other end Matt Turner was forced into a sharp stop at his near post from a miscued clearance from Walker Zimmerman, with the game opening up.
The USA keeper later pulled off a super double-save to parry Blind's shot from the edge of the box and then palm away Depay's follow-up and there was soon desperate defending at the other end when Dumfries scrambled away Wright's goal-bound shot after Steven Bergwijn's awful back pass was intercepted.
Wright had his goal just two minutes later though, somehow scooping the ball up and over Noppert from Pulisic's low cross. "I don't know how he does that," exclaimed Sky Sports' Paul Merson on Soccer Saturday. "It hits the back of his foot and and loops and loops into the back of the net. It's impossible! He couldn't do it if he tried!"
Depay and Pulisic saw chances come and go as a grandstand finish ramped up - but Dumfries ended USA's hopes of a dramatic turnaround when he tucked away Blind's cross. He was involved in so many key moments in the match and deserved to cap off the win which sends the Netherlands into the next round.
Analysis by Sky Sports' Peter Smith:
At the end of the group phase, Louis van Gaal snapped at suggestions from the Dutch media that his side were boring and they needed to open up. His side's first-half performance against USA in the last 16 seemed like a direct message to the press: I know how to progress at major tournaments.
From the first whistle, the Netherlands allowed USA to have the ball and backed off into a mid-block. The Americans, who had thrived on the energy and enthusiasm of their youthful midfield in their previous matches in Qatar, suddenly found themselves required to pass their way through a well-structured defence. They struggled.
And when they slipped up the Netherlands broke with pace, accelerating up the field with excellence to expose their opponents' sluggish central defence. It was a ploy which required humility from the favourites - but had the Dutch 2-0 up and comfortable at the break.
In the second half, calmness turned to chaos. Whether it was caused by the Dutch getting over-confident or USA's decision to throw everything they had at the problem, the game opened up.
Twice the Netherlands had to clear the ball off their goal-line before Haji Wright's unusual goal halved the deficit for USA. There were chances at both ends - although USA's ambition was ultimately their downfall, with Denzel Dumfries' goal, soon after Wright's strike, ending the chance of a dramatic turnaround.
It was an exciting second half - but unpredictable. And that's not how Van Gaal wants it to be. He's never lost a match in charge of them at a World Cup. The Netherlands' supporters must trust his judgement.
Sky Sports' Paul Merson: "Holland will be a threat. They play a certain way. I know the people aren't happy with it but the players are. They'll play counter-attacking football and they are in the last eight. You're going to believe you've got a chance of winning it.
"I thought Depay was outstanding. He's a good footballer. He holds the ball up, he's got good vision, he can see a pass and Dumfries down the right is a handful. He was up and down like a wing-back should, affected the game, two assists, one goal. They were the standouts."
Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal: "I was very critical in half time of my analysis that I share with my players. Despite that we were in the lead 2-0. I think they were fantastic goals. One of these was really a team goal. But in the first half we were dispossessed so often and it was not necessary. And that's not acceptable at a World Cup. In the second half they did a better job even though we made fewer goals. Overall we're very pleased and it gives us incredible confidence."
USA boss Gregg Berhalter to the BBC: "It is a difficult one to handle, such a good group of guys, such a close group of guys, and we came up short today, but not for the lack of trying or lack of effort. The guys poured everything they had into this game and unfortunately we lost it.
"When you think about this group and how they have come together over the last three and a half years, it is really special to see and you do not often get a bond like that between the team-mates, staff and everyone.
"So I'm really proud of this group, but bitterly disappointed with the result today."