Two goals from Ruud van Nistelrooy and a third from substitute Roy Makaay, gave Holland a 3-0 win over Latvia, which, combined with Germany’s defeat to the Czech Republic, sent the Dutch on their way to the quarter finals of Euro 2004.
The win will come as a huge relief to Dutch coach Dick Advocaat who has been criticised for his selections and some of his tactical decisions during the tournament.
Advocaat reinstated Arjen Robben’s whose substitution in Saturday’s defeat against the Czech Republic, attracted strong criticism. Again Robben looked an effective force down left and was at the heart of much of Holland’s attacking play.
Holland had to wait 27 minutes before translating their territorial dominance into something more tangible. The goal, when it came, was shrouded in controversy.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s penalty put the Dutch in front after Vitalijs Astafjevs was judged to have fouled Edgar Davids. It seemed a harsh decision given that the original misdemeanour took place yards outside the penalty area, but Davids fell theatrically into the box and the referee pointed at the spot.
Eight minutes later, Holland doubled their advantage when Philip Cocu nodded back Clarence Seedorf’s free-kick to create Van Nistelrooy’s second.
Restored to the Dutch starting line-up on Wednesday, Robben’s influential play from the left wing once again demonstrated his importance to Holland.
Just before the interval Kolinko stopped Van Nistelrooy from completing a first half hat-trick when he blocked the striker’s volley.
After the break, Latvia adopted a more attacking strategy and came close on a couple of occasions through Rubins and Lobanovs.
At the other end, Kolinko remained a staunch last line of defence for Latvia, but he could do nothing to prevent substitute Makaay adding a third for Holland five minutes from time.
Holland 3-0 Latvia
Holland:Ruud van Nistelrooy 27pen, 35, Roy Makaay 84
Holland:1-Edwin van der Sar; 2-Michael Reiziger, 15-Frank de Boer, 3-Jaap Stam, 5-Giovanni van Bronckhorst; 20-Clarence Seedorf, 8-Edgar Davids (14-Wesley Sneijder 77), 6-Philip Cocu; 7-Andy van der Meyde (16-Marc Overmars 63), 10-Ruud van Nistelrooy (12-Roy Makaay 70), 19-Arjen Robben
Latvia: 1-Aleksandrs Kolinko; 7-Aleksandrs Isakovs, 2-Igors Stepanovs, 4-Mihails Zemlinskis, 6-Olegs Blagonadezdins; 8-Imants Bleidelis (19-Andrejs Stolcers 83), 14-Valentins Lobanovs, 3-Vitalijs Astafjevs, 10-Andrejs Rubins; 11-Andrejs Prohorenkovs (5-Juris Laizans 74), 9-Maris Verpakovskis (17-Marian Pahars 62)
Referee:Kim Milton Nielsen (Denmark)