Holland 2-0 Sweden: Arjen Robben double not enough
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No miracle, then. Holland could not rise hup hup from the depths. The mission was impossible as the Dutch privately conceded it was after the previous round of games.
An attack led by Tottenham misfit Vincent Janssen could not plunder seven against Sweden, who serenaded their hosts with a lesser-heard “bright-side of life” chorus and move into next month’s play-offs.
They gave it a good go did Dick Advocaat’s team, especially in the first-half, blissfully free at last from the weight of expectation and with Arjen Robben producing a sublime reminder of his qualities.
Holland’s World Cup dream ended in Amsterdam after Arjen Robben’s double was not enough for second place in Group A
The winger started the goalscoring as his ‘Panenka’ penalty was just out of the reach of Sweden stopper Robin Olsen
Robben then stunned again when he wrapped his foot around a superb 25-yard effort to double the lead before half time
But it ultimately wasn’t enough for the hosts, who fell five goals short of qualifying for a play-off spot in Group A
Holland stars Daley Blind and Bas Dost appear dejected after the final whistle as their efforts are just not enough
Sweden, despite the defeat, celebrate as they qualify for a play-off spot through a superior goal difference
But, on the night, the task was simply too great. This Oranje arrived pre-crushed, out of the World Cup before the party started and sparking a cascade of questions, not least who provides the techno in Russia.
Ultimately, they were ousted by losing twice to France (no disgrace there), once to Bulgaria and failing to punish the minnows from Belarus and Luxembourg.
Holland took four points Sweden, slide out on goal difference and no-one came to the Amsterdam Arena to vent their anger on the first Holland team to miss the World Cup finals since 2002.
Supporters cheered them over the line and applauded their efforts at the end.
Some came out of habit, head-to-toe in orange, as ever, and some came in tribute to Robben on his 96th and possibly final appearance for his country.
Robben has yet to confirm whether he intends to extend his international career but, at 33, the last of the Dutch masters still standing has earned a break from carrying this team.
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND GROUP TABLE
HOLLAND (4-3-3): Cillesen 6; Tete 6, Van Dijk 6, Rekik 6, Ake 6.5; Vilhena 7, Blind 6, Wijnaldum 6 (Klaasen 71, 5); Robben 8, Janssen 6 (Dost 46, 5), Babel 6.5
SUBS NOT USED: Veltman, Hoedt, De Ligt, Depay, Stekelenburg, Zoet, Van Ginkel, Van de Beek
GOALS: Robben 16′, 40′
MANAGER: Dick Advocaat 6
SWEDEN: Olsen 6.5; Lustig 6, Grandqvist 6, Lindelhof 5, Augustinsson 5; Claesson 5 (Svensson 67, 5), Larsson 6 (M.Olsson 81), Johansson 6, Forsberg 5; Berg 5, Toivonen 5 (Thelin 76)
SUBS NOT USED: Johnsson, Helander, Holmen, Rohden, Krafth, Ekdal, Guidetti, Nordfeldt, Sema
MANAGER: Jan Andersson 6
Holland boss Dick Advocaat and assistant Ruud Gullit take their place on the sidelines ahead of their final World Cup qualifier
Marcus Berg leaps to head the ball to his team-mate during the opening exchanges at the Amsterdam Arena
Ola Toivonen and Karim Rekik battle for possession as Holland look to take the initiative early on in the Dutch capital
Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box with quarter of an hour gone
The Dutch talisman then steps up confidently to chip the ball down the middle and kick his side off with a crucial early goal
The winger’s spot kick was just out of reach of Olsen in goal, who kicked his legs but the ball just squirted through
Robben realises he and his team-mates have little time to waste and quickly grabs the ball from the back of Olsen’s net
The 33-year-old then points to the dugout to signal that the work isn’t over, but it is an impressive start from the Dutch
And his lap of honour after the match with his children pointed towards a farewell.
He set out to lead with courage, demanding the ball and running at the Swedes, winning free-kicks and taking them all.
Robben missed the game’s first chance, heading over, before converting a penalty awarded when Manchester United’s Victor Lindelhof somehow contrived to kick the ball into his own hand.
Robben’s dink from the spot was not a clean connection but it found a way past goalkeeper Robin Olsen.
No-one came in expectation of a famous goal-rush but they saw their team having a go. “Roar like a lion, fight like a beast,” said one banner.
The damage was already done and the irony of an early goal by Luxembourg against Bulgaria did not escape those present.
Sweden’s eight goals against Luxembourg on Saturday put them in control of the runners-up spot in Group A.
They knew anything better than a seven-goal defeat would do and the healthy margin for error coupled with Holland’s frenzied mood of desperation seemed briefly to confound Jan Andersson’s team.
Holland continue to pile on the pressure as Ryan Babel steps up to fizz a free-kick from long range towards goal
Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake goes in to a heavy challenge with Jakob Johansson and Georginio Wijnaldum comes away with it
But it was Robben again who inflicted the damage, hammering home a stunning strike which flew into the Swedish goal
The 96-cap international once more runs to the bench to celebrate with his team-mates as their World Cup hopes remain alive
Johansson and Holland’s Vincent Janssen vie for possession as the first half draws to a close in Amsterdam
Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk shepherds the ball back to the goalkeeper as Berg bears down on the Dutchman
Kenny Tete fired over when he should have scored the second and Olsen kept out Ryan Babel and Janssen.
Five minutes before half-time and Robben pounced again, a wonderful first-time strike, flashed in at terrific pace from the edge of the penalty area with his left foot.
The goal was his 37th for Holland and hauled him level with Dennis Bergkamp. Only Robin van Persie, Klaas Jan Huntelaar an
d Patrick Kluivert have more.
It was two at half-time but it might easily been more – and more would have conjured a fascinating second-half.
Sweden returned with their composure restored, defended deep and did what they usually do so well, frustrate opponents with a well-organised back-four shielded by an equally well-organised midfield-four.
Optimism drained away and Dutch fans drifted away. For them it is over. For the Swedes, the thrill of a play-off date and the chance of their first World Cup appearance since 2006.
Following the clash, Robben announced his immediate retirement from international football.
Sweden coach Janne Andersson looks on from the sidelines as he team fall behind to two early goals from the hosts
Bas Dost heads the ball towards goal as the Dutch ramp up the pressure in order to get the much-needed goals
Olsen rushes out to collect a cross as Vilhena waits in the wings for any spillages as Holland push during the second half
Advocaat looks up at the time as the clock ticks on his side’s dream of booking their place in Russia next year
The final chance of the game goes begging and Robben and Co are left dejected as they learn their fate in the Dutch capital
Lindelof and Gustav Svensson, in contrast, embrace and celebrate after the final whistle is blown and the Swedes qualify