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Dutch Beat Ivory Coast to Reach 2nd Round

June 16, 2006

STUTTGART, Germany (AP) _ Power and flair. Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie used both to show why the Netherlands belongs in the second round of the World Cup.

Van Nistelrooy and Van Persie scored a goal each in a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast, enough to make sure the Dutch advance along with Argentina from a tough Group C.

Ivory Coast was eliminated despite a second classy match in its first World Cup, and got a brilliant goal from Bakary Kone. Ivorian star Didier Drogba was left to console his teammates at the end of the game, wondering why he was no match for Van Nistelrooy in the battle of two of the biggest power forwards in the game.

Under intense pressure to perform after a lackluster opener, Van Nistelrooy came through with a trademark move, waiting on the edge of an offside position, taking a pass and slamming the ball home from 12 yards for the winner, proving again he is the master of the penalty area.

``We are very happy he made a goal. He made a good impression. It gives us a lot of confidence for the next games,″ Dutch coach Marco van Basten said.

And at the World Cup, the Dutch are proving to be the masters of the wings, too.

After Arjen Robben thrilled the Dutch in the opener against Serbia-Montenegro, it was now up to Van Persie to excel.

Van Persie set up his free kick goal with a searing run from the right into the center, where he was floored on the edge of the area by Kolo Toure in the 23rd minute.

Already brimming with confidence, the Arsenal player lined up a drive that clattered into the upper right corner before goalkeeper Jean-Jacques Tizie could even get a hand up in time.

To cap off a strong performance, he chested a ball off the line in a goalmouth scramble and kept chasing down balls until the final whistle to make the difference in a tight World Cup classic.

The win also put two-time champion Argentina, which beat Serbia-Montenegro 6-0, into the next round. Ivory Coast and Serbia are eliminated.

The Dutch players ran up to the tens of thousands of fans in the stands and celebrated like they had just won the world title.

``You have to realize this is very young team. It is very important to reach the second round,″ Van Basten said after he emerged from a joyous orange scrum.

After Van Persie’s goal, the Dutch started playing at their best and finished off Ivory Coast with a six-pass move from defense four minutes later. Robben was twice involved, and in the end sent Van Nistelrooy through for the goal.

It was vindication for Van Nistelrooy, who had come under pressure after a weak opening game.

After a great opening half hour, the Dutch laid back and allowed Ivory Coast to come back.

Kone used his pace to open the Dutch defense and score with a cross-angled drive well outside the reach of Netherlands goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

``Against countries like Argentina and the Netherlands, nothing is easy,″ Ivory Coast coach Henri Michel said. ``The only thing we lack is experience.″

Ten minutes before the end, the Dutch fans started singing ``Hup Holland Hup,″ sensing the second round was theirs.

``I am just relishing the atmosphere,″ Van Nistelrooy said.

In a first half that delighted the sellout crowd of 52,000 at the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadium, both sides threatened.

In an almost symbolic moment at the half-hour mark, Drogba delighted the fans with nifty ball juggling in the box, but when he tried to beat a defender with a fancy overhead move, a second defender, Johnny Heitinga, cleared the ball.

In a battle between two of the world’s greatest power forwards, it was Van Nistelrooy who came out on top. Drogba often lost possession, and on a 2-on-1 late in the first half, failed to find the open Arouna Kone.

``They didn’t leave a lot of space for us, but we had a few chances to score,″ Drogba said. ``And that ball I had to pass to Arouna, I feel if I did it well maybe the result is not the same.″

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