(Reuters) - Forward Robin van Persie scored twice as the Netherlands became the first European team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil after a 2-0 away win over Andorra in Group D on Tuesday.
Van Persie proved the catalyst as he broke the a frustrating deadlock against a defensive home side in Andorra-la-Velle with his two goals which moved him two short of equaling his country's all-time scoring record.
The first was a stinging shot from outside the penalty area in the 49th minute, followed four minutes later by a tap-in after a defensive blunder.
Van Persie might have grabbed a hat-trick in the 70th minute but put his header wide. His 38 goals in 79 appearances took him past Denis Bergkamp in the Dutch scoring standings and just behind Patrick Kluivert on 40.
"It was a good shot and a nice goal," Van Persie said of his opening effort, "but most important is it meant that we were finally 1-0 up and that we could relax a little bit in our approach."
Before that, he told Dutch television, it had been an exasperating encounter.
"It was very hard to create chances in the first half. They played with eight, nine men behind the ball and pushed in the midfield. They were really good at it. We found it really difficult."
There were also decent second half chances for Jeremain Lens and Wesley Sneijder, against the part-timers ranked among the weakest teams in world football, but both were denied by some desperate defending.
The win moved the Dutch to 22 points, beyond the reach of the other teams after Romania were beaten 2-0 by Turkey.
It is the 10th time the Netherlands have qualified for the finals. They were runners-up in 1974 and 1978 and at the last tournament in South Africa in 2010.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Justin Palmer)