The Netherlands' march towards the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ finals accelerated as the Oranje strolled to a 3-0 win over Scotland. First-half headers from Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie were followed by a late penalty from Dirk Kuyt as the Dutch chalked up their fourth straight win in Group 9, extending their lead at the top of the section to eight points ahead of Macedonia's visit on 1 April. The Scots, in contrast, find themselves in desperate need of a win over Iceland at Hampden in four days time to bolster their chances of securing a chance to qualify via the play-offs.
The imbalance of resources between the two countries was reflected in the fact that the Dutch could afford to start with Wesley Sneijder, their outstanding player at UEFA Euro 2008 and the 19-year-old architect of the 6-0 defeat Scotland received on their last visit to Amsterdam, on the bench. The surprise inclusion of Ross McCormack hinted at a more ambitious approach than anticipated from Scotland, although it was soon clear that the Cardiff City forward would be operating on the right of a five-man midfield.
Part of his brief in that role was helping Graham Alexander keep tabs on Arjen Robben and the Real Madrid winger soon demonstrated why as he presented Robin van Persie with the kind of volleying opportunity that he usually relishes. On this occasion, the Arsenal forward miscued his strike and Scotland immediately generated a much clearer chance at the other end.
Darren Fletcher's pass sent Kenny Miller deep into the Dutch box, but a moment's hesitation from the Rangers striker proved critical and gave defender Joris Mathijsen the opportunity to get in a last-ditch block. Almost inevitably, it was a miss that was to prove expensive by the end of the evening, although it was poor defending rather than an absence of clinical finishing that ensured the visitors' hopes of a positive result had been crushed by half-time.
The relative comfort with which the Scots had contained their hosts for the opening half-hour would have made the manner in which they went behind all the more frustrating for Burley and his staff. Right-back Gregory van der Wiel's overlapping run saw Gary Teale get dragged out of position with the result that Marc van Bommel was unchallenged as he floated a cross from the right of the box towards the back post, where Huntelaar got beyond Gary Caldwell to nod home. Holland had just about done enough to merit a lead by that stage, although there had also been signs of frustration creeping in with Nigel de Jong booked for scything into Barry Ferguson and van Bommel fortunate to escape a caution for a similar assault on Darren Fletcher.
Any hope of a Scots fightback was extinguished on the stroke of half-time. A corner on the right was curled in to the near post by Robben, van Persie's run went untracked and the Arsenal man outjumped Graham Alexander to head in his 13th international goal. Allan McGregor, the Rangers goalkeeper promoted by Burley because of regular number one Craig Gordon's lack of action for Sunderland, produced fine stops to prevent first Kuyt and then Robben from adding to the Dutch score early in the second half.
Having also come off his line to thwart Robben with his legs early in the opening period, McGregor may have done enough to retain his place for the Iceland match, although Burley may ask himself if Gordon would have done a better job of dealing with the crosses that led to the first two goals. Scotland thought they had snatched a lifeline when Caldwell headed home from a corner with just over quarter of an hour left, but the Celtic defender's effort was chalked off, apparently because Teale had blocked goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg's attempt to get to the corner. Apparently reminded that some added insurance might not be a bad idea, the Dutch promptly claimed a third goal. Christophe Berra pulled down Huntelaar in the box and Kuyt sent McGregor the wrong way from the spot.