Gakpo shrugs off Liverpool struggles to spark Dutch run at Euro 2024

football09 July 2024 01:45| © AFP
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Cody Gakpo © Getty Images

English fans are yet to see the best of Cody Gakpo in the Premier League, but it is the Liverpool forward they will fear as the Netherlands' biggest threat in Wednesday's Euro 2024 semifinal.

Gakpo has shrugged off an indifferent season at club level to shine once more for his country on the biggest stage of a major international tournament.

The 25-year-old earned his move to the English giants on the back of scoring three times in five appearances at the 2022 World Cup as the Dutch were knocked out by eventual winners Argentina in a quarterfinal penalty shootout in Qatar.

Since then Gakpo has struggled to find his place among Liverpool's array of attacking talent.

Mohamed Salah remains the top dog at Anfield, while Luis Diaz, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota and Gakpo have all battled to earn their place in the side.

There have been flashes of the potential that pushed the Reds into beating a host of Premier League rivals to Gakpo's signature for a £35 million ($45 million) fee.

He scored two brilliant goals in a historic 7-0 rout of Manchester United in March 2023 and netted 16 times in total as Liverpool flirted with winning a quadruple in Jurgen Klopp's final season before falling away to be left with only League Cup success to show for the campaign.

However, he has often had to sacrifice showing his own biggest qualities for the good of the team.

Nunez's failure to deliver on his £85 million price tag forced Gakpo to operate more often as a central striker, or even at times in midfield.

Restored to his favoured role on the left side of the attack for his national team, Gakpo has arguably been the player of the tournament so far in Germany.

"I play on the left wing. In Liverpool I played a lot as a striker, so I think that's the most different thing," said Gakpo on the contrast between his form for club and country.

"I was a left winger before, so that's always been my preference. I think in the last one-and-a-half years the coach needed me to play somewhere else and that's what I try to do the best I can."


His three goals in five games makes him the joint top goalscorer in the tournament and he could have had many more.

Only the most marginal of offside calls denied him a second goal in the 3-0 win over Romania in the last 16, during which he also set up Donyell Malen for the Netherlands' second goal.

And it was his pressure that forced Turkish defender Mert Muldur to turn into his own goal for the decisive moment in Saturday’s 2-1 quarterfinal win.

Kylian Mbappe is the only European player to have scored more goals at the last two major tournaments.

Gakpo joined Dutch football royalty in Johnny Rep and Dennis Bergkamp as the only players to score at least three goals in two tournaments for the Oranje.

"Yes, he can play as a striker, but he has shown that he's most dangerous from the left side," said Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman, whose side are seeking to reach a first Euros final since they won the competition in 1988.

"He is really dangerous if he comes one-against-one with the right-back. Inside, outside, he has his qualities, he's strong.

"He's playing at a great level at this tournament. He's maybe the (most) important player until now."

The Netherlands arrived in Germany widely unfancied and finished third in their group behind France and Austria.

But up against an England side that have stumbled into the semifinals, glory and the Golden Boot is within Gakpo's grasp in Dortmund.