Netherlands earned a crucial 3-1 win over Bulgaria to keep their slim hopes of reaching the 2018 World Cup alive. 

After the horrid 4-0 defeat in France, Netherlands World Cup hopes hinged on getting a win in Amsterdam against Bulgaria. Dick Advocaat made three changes to his line-up with Kenny Tete and Tonny Vilhena coming in as expected, while Wesley Sneijder was dropped for Davy Propper.

The decision to start with Propper paid off within eight minutes as the Brighton midfielder finished off a fine team move involving Quincy Promes, Vincent Janssen and Daley Blind to put Netherlands 1-0 up early on.

It was a lightning start by Netherlands, but as the half wore on Bulgaria came into the game and they gave the Dutch defence a massive scare on 17 minutes with Kostadinov hitting the post with a header.

Netherlands struggled with their passing for the rest of the half and were restricted to efforts from outside the box with Janssen sending one wide, while both Promes and Robben had efforts blocked. The start of the second half saw Netherlands dominate possession but struggle to find any fluidity in the final third. Janssen fired a strike well wide in the only a real chance in the opening minutes.

Eventually, in the 66th minute, Promes set Blind in on the left and the full back crossed for Robben to tap in a second goal. However, a minute later, Netherlands once again showed how fragile they can be defensively with Kostadinov left completely unmarked in front of goal to glance a free kick past Cillessen.

With ten minutes to go, Propper eased any nerves in the Arena by heading in a Promes cross from close range to make it 3-1. It was a much needed win for the Netherlands, but it may not be enough with Sweden hammering Belarus 4-0 in the group’s other game.

The qualifiers end in October with Netherlands traveling to Belarus before finishing the campaign at home to Sweden. Goal difference is set to play a factor and Sweden’s big win today means its unlikely that Netherlands will finish second even if they win their next two games.


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