AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A hat-trick from Robin van Persie earned the striker the status of the Netherlands’ all-time leading scorer as they hammered Hungary 8-1 in their World Cup Group D qualifier on Friday.
Van Persie took his tally to 41 in 80 appearances, passing Patrick Kluivert’s record on a night of clinical efficiency from the Dutch, who had already qualified for next year’s finals in Brazil and racked up their eighth win of the campaign.
The Manchester United striker opened the scoring with a 15th minute header and equalled the national scoring record soon after as the Dutch dominated and went into the break 4-0 ahead.
Kevin Strootman and Jeremain Lens profited from defensive errors to increase the tally before halftime with Van Persie breaking the record with his third in the 52nd minute before being taken off to a standing ovation at the Amsterdam Arena.
There were also poignant sideline celebrations with Kluivert, now an assistant to Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal. But a toe injury almost kept Van Persie from playing.
“It was a gamble but it worked out well,” said the 30-year-old forward with some understatement.
A bizarre own goal from Szilard Devecseri in the 64th added to the Dutch total before late goals from free kicks by Rafael van der Vaart and Arjen Robben rounded off a high tempo performance.
“We put the opponent under pressure for the full 90 minutes,” said Van Gaal. “The effort and the willingness was enormous. It’s a difficult process to squeeze right from the start and then to sustain it.”
On Van Persie’s record-breaking night, Van Gaal told reporters: “It’s a great achievement, but ultimately is all about the way the team puts him in contention.”
Hungary’s goal came from a penalty converted by Balazs Dzsudzsak after a Jeffrey Bruma handball just after the break.
Netherlands have 25 points from nine games, with their final match against Turkey in Istanbul on Tuesday.
Turkey and Romania, who each have 16 points with one match remaining, are fighting it out for a playoff spot.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Mitch Phillips and Ken Ferris