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In Focus: Leading light Gakpo shining brightly for Oranje
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Toby Rathborne
LiveScore
Cody Gakpo scored the Netherlands' opening goal against Senegal
Cody Gakpo scored the Netherlands' opening goal against Senegal

Cody Gakpo produced an inspired performance for the Netherlands against Senegal — and is emerging as their star man. 

There had been concerns before the tournament for boss Louis van Gaal, with talented marksman Memphis Depay struggling for fitness. 

However, Gakpo stepped up to break the deadlock for the Oranje, helping to seal a crucial victory in their World Cup opener. 

Ahead of the Netherlands' clash with Ecuador, we look at the forward's promising display.

Producing the goods

After a disappointing 83 minutes from the Dutch, it was Gakpo's darting run that broke Senegal's defensive line. 

Frenkie de Jong floated the ball into the forward — and he rose above the hands of Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to head home the opening goal. 

It should come as no surprise given the 23-year-old's electric form at PSV Eindhoven, where he has managed an impressive nine goals and 12 assists in 14 Eredivisie appearances. 

The Oranje took control of the match once they were ahead, before Davy Klaassen wrapped up proceedings with a second in added time.

Cody Gakpo has already opened his account at the World Cup, finding the net with his only effort against Senegal
Cody Gakpo has already opened his account at the World Cup, finding the net with his only effort against Senegal

Go, Gakpo, go

Gakpo was intent on creating chances for the Netherlands, who lacked a cutting edge in the attacking third. 

Van Gaal deployed the PSV star just behind the front two, encouraging him to drift wide from that position and cross the ball — no player attempted more deliveries (13) than the forward in Group A. 

The position forced him to receive the ball deeper than he usually would at club level, making it challenging for him to threaten the goal directly. 

However, he still managed to complete his one dribble attempt and four of his seven passes in the attacking third as the Netherlands searched for an opener. 

The unfamiliar role also opened the pitch up for him to make the diagonal run that was not tracked by Senegal's defence, resulting in him giving his side the lead.

Cody Gakpo took the majority of his touches wide on the right against Senegal
Cody Gakpo took the majority of his touches wide on the right against Senegal

Almost a Red Devil

Gakpo's stunning form last term almost saw him swap clubs in the summer transfer window, with several suitors — including Manchester United — interested in his services. 

He said: "I was close to leaving [in the summer]. I spoke to Erik ten Hag a few times at Manchester United. 

"In the end, the deal didn't go through, which was a shame for me and my development and because Manchester United is one of the biggest clubs in the world — but also for PSV because to transfer a player to Manchester United is a good thing for the club. 

"It ended about a week before the end of the transfer window and in that week I had to decide if I would go to Leeds or Southampton. In the end I stayed, but it was a stressful period."

All eyes on Cody

An impressive World Cup showing often results in breakthrough stars earning a dream move soon after.

Gakpo could yet be destined to join United, should Old Trafford chiefs wish to revive their interest in the attacker in January.

If he were to exceed expectations with the world watching, though, the Red Devils may face stiff competition for his signature. 

PSV are likely to struggle to keep hold of their talisman for a second successive window, with a number of sides waiting to pounce for the forward in the coming months.

Warning signs for Ecuador

Cody Gakpo frequently looked to get the ball in the box from wide areas against Senegal
Cody Gakpo frequently looked to get the ball in the box from wide areas against Senegal

Netherlands will be aiming to secure their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup against Ecuador. 

A win would put the Oranje in a commanding position — and Gakpo will be keen to continue his promising start to the tournament. 

Ecuador won their opening match comfortably against Qatar, who never looked like threatening the South American side's goal. 

But they will need to be more guarded in their approach against the Oranje, as the dangerous Gakpo looks to dazzle on the world stage.

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World CupNetherlands
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