June 16, 2006

Dutch win 2-1 to eliminate Ivory Coast

By Martyn Herman

STUTTGART (Reuters) - Netherlands secured their place in
the last 16 of the World Cup on Friday, withstanding a powerful
Ivory Coast onslaught for a 2-1 victory in Group C.

The Dutch seemed to be cruising after goals from Robin van
Persie and Ruud van Nistelrooy put them 2-0 in front by the
26th minute. But they were made to fight all the way by the
Africans, who are now eliminated.

"Until leading 2-0 we had played well, then we lost it,"
Dutch midfielder Mark van Bommel told reporters.

"We played badly but...we have to learn from it. Ivory
Coast were strong opponents. They were always dangerous."

A cagey opening barely hinted at the fireworks to follow,
with an Ivory Coast penalty claim the main talking point when
Giovanni van Bronckhorst wrapped an arm around Emmanuel Eboue.

The Dutch had hardly posed a threat before producing two
moments of quality to leave the Ivorians reeling.

After 23 minutes Van Persie's burst toward the area was
brought to a clumsy end by Kolo Toure and the Arsenal striker
picked himself up to slam an unstoppable free kick past the
flailing arms of goalkeeper Jean-Jacques Tizie.


Worse was to follow for the Africans when Arjen Robben
teased the defense before slipping a reverse pass for Van
Nistelrooy to curl a first-time shot past Tizie.

The Ivorians refused to let their World Cup hopes sink
under the orange tide and rocked the Dutch back on their heels
before halftime.

First Didier Zokora shook the frame of the goal with a
venemous right-foot blast, then the diminutive Bakary Kone
halved the deficit with a contender for goal of the tournament.

Taking the ball off Zokora on the left, Kone raced
diagonally toward goal before clipping a rising shot past Edwin
Van der Sar after 38 minutes.

It was the first goal the Dutch had conceded in 11
competitive matches, ending Van der Sar's international
clean-sheet record at 1,013 minutes.

The Dutch had not let in a goal in their previous 10
non-friendly encounters, an all-time European record.

The interval took the wind out of the sails of the Ivory
Coast as the early second-half exchanges were littered with
niggly fouls.

But Van Persie came to the rescue for the uncomfortable
Dutch after 78 minutes when he cleared a Didier Drogba header
off the line.

Gilles Yapi Yapo also forced a save from Van der Sar three
minutes later.

Dutch coach Marco van Basten said: "We started very well in
the first half but after that it became difficult. In the
second half we could only defend."