Arjen Robben and Dick Advocaat are braced for a nerve-wracking World Cup qualifying showdown against Sweden next month after Netherlands defeated Bulgaria 3-1 on Sunday to remain in the hunt for a place in Russia.
Davy Propper’s brace either side of Robben’s strike earned a routine victory at the Amsterdam Arena, but the margin of victory did not serve to substantially boost Oranje’s goal difference.
The result left Advocaat’s team third in Group A, three points behind second-placed Sweden and four back from leaders France.
Speaking to NOS about the mission Netherlands had been tasked with, Robben said: “You have to win and preferably with a lot of goals. That’s a good job.
“But after all, I found it [the performance] very apathetic. You have to make goals. The will is there with everyone, but there is much more to be done.
“We’re still [in contention]. But you do not have some things in your own hands. It’s significant that it is about goal difference and not about [head-to-head] result. Then you have a real finale against Sweden.”
Of his own showing, the fit-again Bayern Munich veteran said: “I’m exhausted. It’s been a long time since I played 90 minutes twice in such a short time. I gave everything to the team. I fight for my team, but in your mind you know – I’m not [in] top [condition] yet.”
Netherlands host Sweden on October 10 in a clash that is likely to prove decisive to their hopes to going to the finals in Russia next year.
Sweden are six goals better off than Netherlands and could extend that advantage at home to Luxembourg next month, while Oranje must try to make up the deficit away to Belarus.
When it was put to him that at least the team will know what is required of them in the final showdown, Robben replied: “That can sometimes be too much, but as long as we live, we do not give up.”
Head coach Advocaat echoed the sentiments of Robben, but feels Netherlands should not be expected to produce a performance similar to that orchestrated by France, who brushed aside Oranje 4-0 in Paris earlier this week.
“I’m pleased with the result, but we had to make more goals,” he said.
“You hope to make more goals. But winning by 6-0 or 7-0 [is not possible] anymore.
“Today, [people are] no longer satisfied with 3-1 over Bulgaria. You should not compare us to France, but with Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg.”
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