Dutch beat Andorra 2-0, qualify for Brazil
Three-time World Cup runner-up the Netherlands qualified for the finals in Brazil next year after Robin van Persie broke down a stubborn Andorra defense with two second-half goals in a 2-0 win on Tuesday.
With Turkey beating second-place Romania 2-0 in Bucharest, the Netherlands can no longer be caught with two rounds to go in Group D. In the other group match, Hungary easily beat Estonia 5-1 in Budapest.
Even before the final whistle, a small group of Dutch fans in Andorra unfurled a large orange-flanked Brazil flag to celebrate the qualification.
“We’ve qualified, that’s step one,” said Van Persie. “Now we have to start working toward the World Cup.”
In a match between the numbers five and 205 in the FIFA rankings, the Netherlands dominated possession, but Andorra’s aggressive defense restricted the Dutch to just a handful of attempts in the first half before Van Persie’s second-half brace sealed the match and World Cup finals qualification.
Coach Louis Van Gaal sacrificed left back Jetro Willems to bring on midfielder Adam Maher in the second half and the change immediately gave the Dutch more attacking impetus as Andorra tired.
Before the break, Van Persie twice had free kicks in promising positions, but curled the first one wide and saw the second deflect to safety off the wall.
He finally found the net in the 50th minute with a curling left-foot shot that gave goalkeeper Ferran Pol no chance. The Manchester United striker followed it up four minutes later with a tap in after Pol failed to gather a cross.
The goals took Van Persie past Dennis Bergkamp to second place on the all-time list of Dutch international scorers with 38 goals, just two behind Patrick Kluivert.
They also helped Van Gaal gain a measure of redemption for one of the only failures of his coaching career, not reaching the 2002 World Cup finals with the Netherlands.
But Van Gaal said his team still has plenty of work to do.
“There is now a World Cup and you have to perform well there,” he said. “We have a very young team with a few older players, I hope we can get past the first round.”
In Romania, Burak Yilmaz headed Turkey to a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute after a Caner Erkin cross from the left.
Umut Bulut came close to doubling Turkey’s lead in the 54th minute after a pass from Gokhan Tore, but Ciprian Tatarusanu in the Romania goal saved well.
Mevlut Erdinc eventually made it 2-0 deep in injury time at the end of the match to send the Dutch to Brazil.
Hungary leapfrogged Romania and Turkey into second place in the group by thrashing Estonia 5-1.
Ragnar Klavan opened the scoring with an 11th minute own goal and Tamas Hajnal and Daniel Bode made it 3-0 at half time. Tarmo Kink pulled back a goal for Estonia shortly after the break, but Krisztian Nemeth and Balazs Dzsudzsak rounded off the scoring for Hungary.