Dutch football fans weren't treated to the colossal blowout many expected when their beloved men in Oranje hosted an over-matched Andorra side on Friday evening. Holland were undeniably dominant in the 3-0 win, but they seemed rather uninterested in burying a barrage of goals that would have landed them on sports highlight shows around the world. The Netherlands were workmanlike during the final 75 minutes of play, while Andorra were mostly along for the ride. Those who were unable to sneak out of work early to watch the match can catch it on replay via ESPN3/Watch ESPN.
I wouldn't go out of your way to do so, however, because you really didn't miss all that much.
Holland's class was on display almost immediately after kickoff, and they needed less than seven minutes to open the scoring. A duo of passes found Rafael Van der Vaart on the edge of the box, and the former Tottenham star fired off a left-footed effort that flew underneath the leg of a defender and past goalkeeper Josep Anton Gomez. Van der Vaart hardly celebrated the goal, perhaps knowing that this wasn't going to be one of his more challenging evenings.
The Dutch doubled their lead eight minutes later. Another brilliant passing sequence landed Jermain Lens with possession and tons of space on the left wing. Lens teed himself up for a cross that he delivered into the penalty area, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar easily slipped past his marker before somewhat humorously knocking the ball into the corner of the net with his right shoulder rather than his head. It wasn't the prettiest goal Huntelaar has netted while wearing any shirt, but it was a tally that essentially ended the game.
"One-way traffic" isn't an adequate enough description for the rest of the half. Outside of an early shot from distance that never had any chance of beating Holland goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, Andorra lived on the back foot all the way up until halftime. The Netherlands had a third goal taken off the scoreboard due to a correct offside call, and Huntelaar, Kevin Strootman and Van der Vaart all squandered chances before the break.
Four minutes was all the Dutch needed to find a third goal after the intermission. Lens again beat his defender down the left wing before playing a cross into the box, and Andorra's Marco Valez tried to head the ball out of danger. Valez didn't get any real power on the attempted clearance, however, instead nodding the ball right to Ruben Schaken. Schaken celebrated his first international appearance by opening his Holland account, depositing a left-footed tap-in that may go down as the easiest chance of his Netherlands career.
Some may say that a 3-0 win over a lowly opponent such as Andorra could be cause for concern, especially for a Netherlands midfield that was far from fluid during the game's final hour. I don't quite see things that way. Holland were twice their own worst enemy in situations where they found themselves caught by Andorra's high back line and thus were unable to stay onside while in the penalty area, and a lack of clinical finishing prevented the scoreline from being much uglier than it was. It also shouldn't be ignored that the Dutch were in cruise control for much of the final half-hour of play.
I had no problem with Friday's game being mostly a walkabout for Holland leading up to their Tuesday clash with Romania. That game likely won't be as easy. Romania, like Holland, have won their first three World Cup qualifiers, and they only trail the Dutch on goal difference by one. Romania will also have home-field advantage on October 16.
Holland boss Louis van Gaal should have a full squad for Tuesday's important contest. He somewhat surprisingly gave Robin van Persie the evening off, and he also replaced both Lens and Van der Vaart 20 minutes from time. Van Gaal wasn't overly pleased with his team's effort on Friday, telling reporters the following after the match: "It was tough against such a defensive opponent but still we should have done better. We started well with two quick goals but we couldn't maintain the tempo and the same happened after the break." I understand Van Gaal wanting more from his squad, but wins are what matter most in these games. Holland have now rattled off three straight victories in their quest to win the group, and they should be feeling confident heading into their first real test of the qualification process.
- Sports & Recreation