Dutch miss out on World Cup despite win over Sweden

James Sharman and Craig Forrest recap Portugal’s quest to qualify for the World Cup and more.

AMSTERDAM — Arjen Robben ensured that the Netherlands bowed out of World Cup qualification in some style Tuesday, scoring both goals as the Dutch beat Sweden 2-0 before then announcing his retirement from international football.

The winning margin at the Amsterdam Arena was nowhere near enough for the Netherlands, which had to beat Sweden by seven goals to move into second place in Group A.

The Swedes, who looked content to defend throughout the match, finished second and go into a playoff for the World Cup in Russia next year. France beat Belarus 2-1 to seal top spot in the group and automatic qualification.

The Netherlands, a three-time World Cup runner-up, has now missed out on the World Cup after failing to qualify for last year’s European Championship in France.

It has been a dramatic fall from grace for a Dutch team that reached the semifinals at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, four years after losing the final in South Africa.

But it was a fittingly bitter-sweet end for one of the greatest wingers the Netherlands has produced, who may be best remembered for a goal he didn’t score – against Spain in the 2010 World Cup final, when Iker Casillas made an outstanding save to keep the Dutchman at bay. Spain won 1-0 in extra time.

Tuesday’s performance was vintage Robben. He darted past defenders, drifted in from the right flank and shot with his left foot, fell theatrically under a Swedish tackle and pleaded with the referee for a free kick. He fired up his team, urging them forward and fell to his knees, pounding the turf with both hands, when he hit an inaccurate pass.

"I wanted to show one more time all the things that I can do," Robben told Dutch broadcaster NOS as he announced his retirement from the national team.

As the seconds ticked away toward the final whistle, thousands of fans at the Amsterdam Arena rose to give him a standing ovation, chanting "Arjen, thanks!" in Dutch.

If other players had e mulated Robben’s finishing prowess Tuesday night, the Dutch would have been much closer to the unlikely score they needed.

Defender Kenny Tete and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum both squandered good chances in the first half and Ryan Babel came close with a long-range free kick.

It was 33-year-old Robben’s 96th and final international for the Netherlands and he stamped his authority all over the match, taking his tally of goals to 37, level with Dennis Bergkamp and fourth on the all-time list of scorers.

"Arjen was one of – still is – one of the best players … in the world," coach Dick Advocaat said. "He is just a quality player. We will miss him, no doubt about that."

After the final whistle, Robben completed a slow lap of honour with his two young sons, one of them netting a couple of goals with his left foot to roars from the crowd.

Robben gave the Netherlands the lead when he converted – though only just – a 16th minute penalty with a fluffed Panenka chip.

There was no sign of a mis-hit for his second goal, a powerful first-time shot from just outside the penalty area that fizzed past Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen and into the top corner in the 40th minute.

"Normally it would be beautiful, but it is tough not to go to the World Cup," Robben said, as he ended a career that had many high points on a low.


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