Football

Holland's Robben throws in towel in World Cup qualification

Holland captain Arjen Robben has given up hope on his side advancing to next year's World Cup Finals despite a 3-1 win at Belarus in their penultimate qualifier yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The Dutch still have a mathematical chance of reaching Russia if they beat Sweden in Amsterdam on Wednesday morning, but admit that the seven-goal victory margin needed to leapfrog their opponents is highly unlikely to happen.

"It caused me a lot of pain but, unfortunately, that is part of sport," said the 33-year-old Bayern Munich winger, who, after 95 caps, is edging ever closer to the end of his international career.

Yesterday morning's result left the Dutch on 16 points from nine matches in Group A, three behind second-placed Sweden, who have a vastly superior goal difference of plus-19 compared to plus-seven for Holland.

France beat Bulgaria 1-0 yesterday morning to stay one point ahead of the Swedes, who demolished Luxembourg 8-0.

On Sweden's big win, Robben told Dutch television: "We couldn't believe it was that much."

Sweden had completed their victory by the time Holland took to the field in Borisov, where Robben scored one goal and set up another.

He said: "After the result in Sweden, we could not do much more than come out with our chests out. But to win 8-0 in Belarus was never going to be realistic and 7-0 at home against Sweden, that's not going to happen either.

  • COUNTRIES WHO HAVE QUALIFIED FOR 2018 WORLD CUP

    • Russia (as hosts), Brazil, Germany, England, Belgium, Spain, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nigeria

"Obviously we must keep believing until the last minute, but I had better say what everyone is thinking. It is not realistic to think we can beat Sweden with a big score."

Missing out on the World Cup continues a dramatic fall from grace for Holland, runners-up in South Africa in 2010 and third at the last tournament in Brazil.

They failed to qualify for last year's European Championship in France. - REUTERS

World CupeuropeSWEDEN