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World Cup qualifiers

Robben keeps Dutch in World Cup hunt

Arjen Robben and the Netherlands have kept alive their slim hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Three days after a sobering 4-0 defeat to European Championship runners-up France, the Elftal and captain Robben won 3-1 at home to Bulgaria and moved up to third spot in Group A on 13 points behind Sweden (16) and the French (17).

In front of a partisan crowd at the Amsterdam Arena the men who finished third at the 2014 World Cup roared off the blocks and took a seventh-minute lead through Davy Pröpper. Robben doubled the lead midway through the second period, but the Dutch were not home and dry yet as Georgi Kostadinov cut the arrears in the 68th minute. However, Pröpper was on hand to net his second of the evening 10 minutes from time and seal the desperately-needed three points.

Provided Robben & Co win their remaining two matches, away to Berlarus and at home to Sweden, the Dutch could yet finish second and book a play-off spot. France still have the best chance of qualifying directly for next year's finals by winning the group, despite the fact Les Bleus suffered the indignity of a goalless draw at home to minnows Luxembourg in Toulouse on Sunday evening.

Kingsley Coman, a prime mover in last Thursday's impressive victory over the Netherlands, came on after 59 minutes of the Luxembourg clash but was unable to help the French translate their crushing superiority into a match-winning goal against the courageous visitors, who avoided defeat to their comparatively huge neighbours for the first time in more than a century. Corentin Tolisso was named in the matchday squad but spent the 90 minutes on the bench.