Kuyt bags brace as Dutch maul Macedonia

AMSTERDAM - The Netherlands struck three early goals to set up a crushing 4-0 win over Macedonia which edged them closer to World Cup qualification on Wednesday. Striker Dirk Kuyt opened the scoring from close range on 16 minutes following a pass by winger Arjen Robben, who set up Klaas Jan Huntelaar nine minutes later to double the hosts' lead in the Group Nine match. An excellent pass from substitute Wesley Sneijder created Kuyt's second four minutes before the interval and Rafael van der Vaart completed the rout two minutes from time. "We realise we are almost qualified," Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk told reporters. "My team made an eager impression and they really displayed joy tonight, but I am not satisfied about the period between the second and third goal." "We played too hasty and sloppy which caused some dangerous loss of the ball." Dutch substitute Ryan Babel could have scored a hat-trick after replacing Robben but goalkeeper Tome Pacovski prevented further damage until Van Vaart's late strike. "This team has to learn to become more stable so they can trust each other and when that is happening you can take on strong opponents," added Van Marwijk. The Netherlands top Group Nine with a perfect 15 points from five games, eight ahead of Scotland. The Dutch next play Iceland away on June 6 and host Norway four days later.