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Dutch, Ireland notch confidence-boosting wins in bid to reach 2018 World Cup proper


The Netherlands and Ireland are two sides both raring to make it to the 2018 World Cup proper in Russia.

They revved up for their coming qualifiers by subduing respective rivals on Sunday.

The Dutch clobbered Ivory Coast 5-0 in a friendly, while Ireland whipped Paraguay 3-1.

Those maybe exhibition wins alright but were necessary to keep their mindset in positive mode should they land in football’s biggest stage next year.

Although they are struggling, the Dutch placed only fourth in Group A on seven points behind leaders France (13) Sweden (10) and Bulgaria (9).

Their confidence though were boosted with Dick Advocaat officially becoming their new manager this Wednesday.

It was assistant Fred Grim who took charge in Rotterdam encounter against an Ivory Coast side now mentored by former Belgium boss Marc Wilmots.

The Ivorians buckled into a maze of errors and the Dutch pounced on these to take a 3-0 lead at the break behind a double from Joel Veltman and a penalty from captain Arjen Robben.

Davy Klaassen and Vincent Janssen added to the winning cause late in the second half.

Advocaat will be calling the shots for the Dutch for the third time.

For his first match at the helm, he faces an all-important qualifier against Luxembourg next Friday, with France facing Sweden in Stockholm.

Robben stressed the need for them to beat Luxembourg and that France beat Sweden.

“If we beat Luxembourg then we can still envisage taking second place to go into the play-offs,’’ said the veteran, a long-time pillar of the Dutch side.

To bring back the team to their fearsome form, the Ducth football federation tapped the services of Advocaat and former Ballon d’Or winner Ruud Gullit as assistant.

They were hired on a “short-term’’ basis, signing contracts through until the end of the year.

A noted disciplinarian, Advocaat took over from Danny Blind after the latter fired in March following a 2-0 setback in Bulgaria.

Grim said their win over Ivory Coast will give them confidence before the Luxembourg match which they need to win.

In Dublin, Ireland also saw their spirit soar ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Austria at home.

With Seamus Coleman recovering from a double leg fracture, Derby full-back Cyrus Christie deputised and scored his second international goal.

Ireland took a 28th-minute lead through skipper Jonathan Walters, but Jose Gimenez tied the count for Paraguay before halftime.

Derby full-back Cyrus Christie, perfectly filling the void left by the injured Seamus Coleman, brought Ireland back to the lead before a third from substitute James McClean sealed a convincing triumph for manager Martin O’Neill.

Ireland have similar 11 points with Serbia who top Group D on goal difference. The Austrians are fourth with seven points.