SOFIA: Holland sacked coach Danny Blind after slumping to a 2-0 World Cup qualifying defeat against Bulgaria.
Defeat left the Dutch struggling in fourth place in Group A behind France, Sweden and the Bulgarians.
Blind’s decision to make 17-year-old Matthijs De Ligt the country’s youngest debutant since 1931 backfired as the defender was at fault for both goals in the opening 20 minutes by Spas Delev.
KNVB director Jean Paul Decossaux said in a statement that Blind was removed because of poor results under his leadership. Blind countered that the team were on the right path and that the Bulgaria defeat was “an incident.”
Blind took over from veteran Guus Hiddink in 2015, with a mission to kickstart the Dutch team’s faltering European Championship qualification campaign. He failed and the Netherlands – World Cup semifinalists in Brazil in 2014 – did not qualify for the 2016 European Championship.
France lead the way after a 3-1 victory over Luxembourg, Olivier Giroud netting twice and Antoine Griezmann once, while Sweden’s 4-0 victory against Belarus earlier in the day had put them top for a few hours.
Emil Forsberg scored twice, the first from the penalty spot, before goals from Marcus Berg and Isaac Kiese Thelin completed a comfortable win at the Friends Arena.
Switzerland extended their perfect record to five wins from five in Group B after a 66th-minute header from substitute Josip Drmic gave them a 1-0 home win over Latvia, while Andorra earned their first point – and ended a run of 58 consecutive competitive defeats – by holding the Faroe Islands to a goalless draw.
Portugal are second in the group after a routine 3-0 victory over Hungary. Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice, the first a low, drilled 20-yard effort and the second a brilliant free-kick that went in off the post, after Andre Silva had opened the scoring.
Belgium lost their 100 per cent record after being held to a frustrating 1-1 draw by nine-man Greece but still top Group H.
It could have been even worse for Roberto Martinez’s side, who despite dominating the game needed an 89th-minute equaliser from in-form Romelu Lukaku to cancel out Kostas Mitroglou’s goal early in the second half.
Panagiotis Tachtsidis and Georgios Tzavellas both saw red.
Bosnia-Herzegovina were 5-0 winners at home to minnows Gibraltar. A Vedad Ibisevic double and further strikes from Avdija Vrsajevic, Edin Visca and Ermin Bicakcic sealed a routine success.
The other game in Group H saw Cyprus and Estonia share a goalless draw.