AMSTERDAM (AFP) – Under-pressure coach Guus Hiddink breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday as the Netherlands outclassed Latvia 6-0 in Amsterdam to give their Euro 2016 qualifying bid a shot in the arm.
The outstanding Arjen Robben and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar both scored twice with captain Robin van Persie and Jeffrey Bruma also on target as the Oranje claimed just their second win in four games in Group A.
Hiddink, in his second spell as Dutch coach, had indicated that he would resign if his side suffered another disappointing result after suffering four defeats in their five games since finishing third at the World Cup in Brazil under his predecessor Louis van Gaal.
However, Latvia had mustered just two points and scored only one goal in their opening three qualifiers for the finals in France and an upset never looked on the cards in a one-sided encounter at the Amsterdam ArenA.
Hiddink made five changes to the side that started the 3-2 friendly defeat to Mexico at the same venue in midweek and sent out a team with fearsome attacking potential.
Ibrahim Afellay, the Barcelona player on loan at Greek champions Olympiakos, fired the first warning shot with an effort that hit the post just two minutes in, and the opening goal arrived four minutes later.
A neat move ended with Robben’s left-footed cross from the right flank for van Persie to head past Latvia’s veteran goalkeeper Aleksandrs Kolinko and score his 49th goal for his country.
There was a brief scare for the hosts when Valerijs Sabala was left unmarked in the penalty box but could only head wide, before Manchester United midfielder Daley Blind hurt his knee and was forced off to be replaced by Jordy Clasie.
However, Holland continued to create chances and they doubled their lead 10 minutes before the interval as
Robben and van Persie combined once again.
Bayern Munich winger Robben cut in from the right and exchanged passes with van Persie before beating Kolinko with a superb curling strike from 25 yards.
Huntelaar joined in the scoring three minutes prior to half-time, stabbing home a low Afellay cross from close range to equal the great Marco van Basten on 16 European Championship goals.
The traffic remained one-way in the second half and Robben hit the bar from a free-kick before Wesley Sneidjer’s left-wing corner in the 78th minute was headed on at the near post by van Persie for PSV Eindhoven defender Bruma to finish into an empty net.
Robben, the best player on the field, then got his second of the evening with a left-footed strike from just inside the area eight minutes from the end.
And Schalke striker Huntelaar put the seal on the win a minute from time, collecting a Clasie pass before smashing in a low shot on the turn.
Having already been beaten in the Czech Republic and in Iceland, Hiddink’s side still have some catching up to do but this result takes some of the pressure off with their next qualifier, at home to struggling Turkey, not until the end of March.