The Netherlands sent out a warning to their UEFA EURO 2012 rivals by easing to a 6-0 victory against Northern Ireland at the Amsterdam ArenA.
As expected, Robin van Persie led the line, while Jetro Willems, who could become the youngest player to take to the field at a UEFA European Championship, was handed a starting berth. The writing was firmly on the wall when Van Persie scored either side of Wesley Sneijder's solo effort. An Ibrahim Afellay double made it 5-0 to the hosts, before Ron Vlaar completed the win.
The Netherlands turned back the clock and treated the 50,000 spectators to a masterclass in 'total football'. Van Persie opened the scoring with a powerful header, while Sneijder showed no signs of his midweek knock when he curled in a sumptuous second. The Arsenal FC forward soon made it three from the penalty spot to notch his 28th Oranje goal in 65 matches.
The game was put beyond doubt eight minutes before the break when Afellay produced a smart finish to complete a sweeping team move. Not content with four, the Netherlands stretched their advantage after the restart, Afellay benefiting from a neat pass from Van Persie and finishing with aplomb. Deputising for Joris Mathijsen, Vlaar then scored his first international goal with a trademark header to round off the scoring.
The Netherlands will now focus on their UEFA EURO 2012 opener against Denmark on 9 June, with their coach Bert van Marwijk remaining defiantly cautious. "We played against pretty average opponents," he said. "Nevertheless, our performances keep improving. The win does not mean that much to me. Our play was faster, but sometimes we were not precise enough. Still, I saw some nice attacks and good goals. We could even have scored a few more. We go to the EURO with confidence but we are not the finished article."
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