In the Round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the U.S. Men’s National Team will have its hand full with the Netherlands. The “Oranje” boasts big-time Europen soccer names like Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, Manchester City’s Nathan Ake, and Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay. However, the star of the team’s 2022 World Cup run is a 23-year-old who still plays in the Netherlands at PSV Eindhoven, named Cody Gakpo. As the USMNT gets ready to do battle with the Dutch, we’ll try and answer the question, who is the Netherlands’ Cody Gakpo?
Who is Netherlands star Cody Gakpo?
The big story in Group A at the 2022 World Cup is the Netherlands forward Cody Gakpo scoring goals in all of his team’s first three matches. So, who is Cody Gakpo?
Gakpo is a 23-year-old from Eindhoven, Netherlands, who started with his hometown club, PSV Eindhoven’s, youth academy at the age of seven and still plays for the team. The predominantly left winger — who can play all three forward spots — made the senior team as an 18-year-old and has developed into one of the best young players in the Eredivisie.
In the 2021-22 season, Gakpo had a breakout year, notching 21 goals and 15 assists in 47 appearances for PSV, earning him the Dutch Footballer of the Year Award. This is a prestigious award given to the best player in the Eredivisie that has been won by foreign-born stars like Hakim Ziyech, Jan Vertonghen, and Luis Suarez, as well as Gakpo’s current teammates Daley Blind, Davy Klaassen, and Matthijs de Ligt. Several of their iconic countrymen — Dirk Kuyt, Dennis Bergkamp, Ronald Koeman, and Ruud Gullit — have taken home this hardware as well.
Last offseason, there were rumors of Cody Gakpo moving to the Premier League to clubs both big (Manchester United) and small (Leeds United).
Now, after his breakout performance in Qatar, Manchester United (with Dutch manager Erik ten Hag) is said to be close to signing the forward in January. However, Liverpool may be in the mix, too.
How can the USMNT stop Cody Gakpo?
While the casual fan world might be asking, “who is Coday Gakpo?” the USMNT knows exactly who he is after three goals in three games for the Netherlands. Now the question becomes, how will the USMNT defend the young Dutch star?
Gakpo will pop up all over the box in the run of play, but he primarily works from the left side. That presents an interesting challenge for the USMNT, as Tim Ream, the U.S.’s best individual defender, plays on the right.
This means that either Cameron Carter-Vickers or Walker Zimmerman will be primarily responsible for keeping track of Gakpo.
The 6-foot-3 Zimmerman will be better at battling the 6-foot-2 Gakpo in the air, but the 6-foot-1, 200-plus-pound Carter-Vickers is more athletic and could physically bully Gakpo with his 30-plus-pound weight advantage on the Dutch forward.
No matter who starts, it will be a group effort to stop or even slow down Gakpo. Left-back Sergino Dest may not be able to push as far forward as he usually does, and defensive midfielder Tyler Adams may have to slump back deeper as well.
This will be hard work for the USMNT defense, but for the team that hasn’t given up a goal in the run of play during the 2022 World Cup, it seems like they are up for the challenge.
Who are the other stars on the Netherlands roster?
Like the USMNT, the Netherlands shockingly missed out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The country was between generations at the time and has spent the ensuing four years developing young players to go with the few veteran stars who fell in between the current promising crop of youngsters and the past success of players like Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Dirk Kuyt, and Wesley Sneijder.
Many of those 30-something stars are on the defensive side of the ball. Full-back Daley Blind is the son of former Dutch national team manager Danny Blind. He came up with Ajax in Amsterdam before moving to Manchester United for four seasons before returning to his boyhood club.
Manchester City’s Nathan Ake (27) will also likely start in a three-man center-back with Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, who is in the conversation for best CB in the world. The other CB will either be 21-year-old Ajax prospect Jurrien Timber or 23-year-old Bayern Munich star Matthijs de Ligt.
In the midfield, it’s all about Barcelona playmaker Frenkie de Jong. After controversy surrounding his contract this offseason and a failed Manchester United transfer bid, the 25-year-old is powering the Dutch midfield at the 2022 World Cup with a goal and an assist so far.
Upfront with Cody Gakpo, dynamic Barcelona winger Memphis Depay has struggled with a thigh injury this season but seems healthy and back to his usual form for the Netherlands.
This group is a legitimate international force with its mix of budding young prospects and established stars, which is why they’ll be a tough opponent for the USMNT on Saturday.