The Netherlands joined the Czech Republic at the top of qualifying Group 3 after battling to a home victory against Austria.
It was a hard-fought victory in Rotterdam, with half-time substitutions finally helping Dick Advocaat's men secure victory through goals from Rafael van der Vaart, Patrick Kluivert and Phillip Cocu. The Dutch have moved on to 16 points, the same number as the Czechs, with the teams meeting in Prague on Wednesday for a match that will in all probability determine who goes automatically to Portugal and who has to enter the play-offs.
The Dutch started in slow fashion tonight, despite the home support's hopes of an aggressive opening, especially considering what was at stake for a side that failed to reach last year's FIFA World Cup finals. As such, there was considerable relief when AFC Ajax starlet Van der Vaart received a pass from Kluivert and fired a left-foot shot into the top corner past keeper Thomas Mandl. However, the lead was not to last for long.
A mistake from Edwin van der Sar in the Dutch goal allowed Emmanuel Pogatetz to score from close range just three minutes later. Advocaat was not happy at half-time and replaced Edgar Davids and Boudewijn Zenden with Marc Overmars and Pierre van Hooijdonk. The change gave the team more focus and allowed for greater use of the wings.
The home team took the lead again in the 60th minute through FC Barcelona man Kluivert's well-taken goal, after being sent clear by Mark van Bommel, before his club-mate Cocu wrapped up the win with a header from Overmars' corner two minutes later. Van der Sar then made amends for his part in Austria's goal by making a brilliant save from Markus Schopp's effort in the 74th minute. Despite a flurry of late changes, Austria could not get back into the contest and realised their dreams of making it to Portugal were over.
Austria coach Hans Krankl said: "We had too much respect for the Dutch and we couldn't change this attitude. If ever we had a chance to get a win or a draw against Holland it was tonight." Advocaat, the Dutch coach, was satisfied with victory but warned it would be a harder prospect in Prague. "If we play like this on Wednesday [against the Czech Republic] it will be very tough."