Netherlands beats Kazakhstan to stay in race for Euro 2016
ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN: The Netherlands kept alive its hopes of qualifying for next year's European Championship by beating Kazakhstan 2-1 on Saturday.
But Turkey went back into pole position to take third place in Group A and a playoff berth by beating the already-qualified Czech Republic 2-0.
Midfielders Georginio Wijnaldum and Wesley Sneijder scored in either half for the Netherlands to ensure the fight for third goes down to the final round of qualifiers on Tuesday. Islambek Kuat scored a consolation goal with the last touch of the match.
"I'm satisfied with this victory," said coach Danny Blind, who earned his first victory after losing his first two matches in charge.
Already-qualified Iceland squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Latvia.
The Netherlands went third ahead of the late match in Prague and Iceland's draw put it top, one point ahead of the Czechs. But they didn't stay there long.
Turkey pushed the Dutch back to fourth thanks to a 62nd-minute penalty by Selcuk Inan and Hakan Calhanoglu's strike with 10 minutes left against the Czech Republic.
Turkey, two points ahead of the Dutch, plays Iceland on Tuesday, while the Netherlands hosts the Czech Republic in Amsterdam.
Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Gylfi Sigurdsson put Iceland two up within the first half hour, but Aleksandrs Cauna and Valerijs Sabala scored second-half goals to earn Latvia a point.
The Netherlands has not missed a major tournament since the 2002 World Cup. The last time the team failed to qualify for the European Championship was in 1984.
"The most important thing was to win," Blind said. "That was the aim and how it happened didn't matter."
Faced with a long injury list that included captain Arjen Robben and most of his first-choice defenders, Blind gave debuts to three players in the crucial match — defenders Kenneth Tete and Virgil van Dijk as well as winger Anwar El Ghazi.
Goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet became the fourth debutant of the night in Astana when he came on as a second half substitute for Tim Krul — himself a replacement for Jasper Cillessen, who was injured in the warmup.
Despite the many absentees, the Netherlands was never seriously troubled by Kazakhstan, though some Dutch players struggled to adapt to the artificial turf at Astana Arena — it was the first international for the Netherlands not played on grass.
The Dutch dominated in the first half but only managed to find the net once, when Wijnaldum ran onto El Ghazi's pass and slotted a low, left-foot shot into the bottom corner of the net in the 33rd minute.
Either side of his assist, El Ghazi missed two good chances to crown his full international debut with a goal.
Veteran midfielder Sneijder doubled the Dutch lead in the 50th minute when he ran onto a layoff by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and hammered the ball high into the net.
Striker Robin van Persie was benched for most of the match, but replaced Huntelaar in the 87th minute to make his 100th international appearance.