Rotterdam (Netherlands) (AFP) – Dick Advocaat got off to a winning start as the Netherlands kept their slim hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup alive with a 5-0 win over Luxembourg Friday.
Advocaat began his third stint as Dutch coach this week insisting the flagging national side could still beat the odds and qualify for Russia.
And the 69-year-old could thank the veterans in his squad for victory with Arjen Robben opening on 21 minutes and Wesley Sneijder adding a second after 34 minutes.
Galatasaray playmaker Sneijder celebrated his 33rd birthday on the night and also earned a record 131st cap, making him the most capped Dutch international in history ahead of Edwin van der Sar.
The former Ajax, Real Madrid and Inter Milan player’s children unfurled a banner in the stands – “We’re proud of you Dad!” – to mark the occasion in Rotterdam.
The Dutch continued the goalfest in the second half with Liverpool star Georginio Wijnaldum (62), Quincy Promes (70) slotting in and Vincent Janssen converting a penalty six minutes from time.
The Dutch move up to third in Group A with Sweden taking top spot ahead of France after a 2-1 win in Stockholm. The Netherlands are three points behind with 10 points.
Bulgaria are one point behind the Dutch and Belarus five points adrift with minnows Luxembourg bottom of the table.
The winners of each group are guaranteed a place at next year’s finals in Russia, with the eight best second-placed sides competing in the play-offs.
But despite the odds being stacked against them Robben remains positive with upcoming qualifiers against France in Paris on August 31, and Bulgaria on September 3.
“I’m a positive person. I believe in it with all my heart,” said 33-year-old Bayern Munich forward Robben.
“We have the means to cause a surprise in Paris, the group has found a positive dynamic, we will go there to win against the Bleus.”
Advocaat said he was “very satisfied but realistic” of qualifying for Russia.
“Of course we are capable of winning in France, the players will be ready, I have a good feeling,” he said.
The Netherlands, three-time World Cup runners-up, have suffered a tough time in recent years, failing to qualify for Euro 2016 in France and now facing the prospect of a humiliating World Cup no-show.
Advocaat was brought in with Dutch legend Ruud Gullit as his assistant, on a rescue mission, after Danny Blind was sacked after a 2-0 defeat to Bulgaria.