September 3, 2017 / 7:21 PM / in a year

Soccer - Propper double boosts Dutch World Cup qualifying hopes

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Netherlands’ Davy Propper scored twice and Arjen Robben also got on the scoresheet in a 3-1 home win over Bulgaria on Sunday to boost their country’s hopes of qualifying for the World Cup.

Soccer Football - 2018 World Cup Qualifications - Europe - Netherlands vs Bulgaria - Amsterdam, Netherlands - September 3, 2017 Netherlands’ Arjen Robben celebrates scoring their second goal with Quincy Promes REUTERS/Michael Kooren

The Dutch are up to third in Group A on 13 points, a point above Bulgaria but still three behind Sweden, who won 4-0 in Belarus, and four off section leaders France after they were surprisingly held 0-0 at home by Luxembourg. Propper, a surprise inclusion in place of playmaker Wesley Sneijder, scored his first international goal after seven minutes in a bright start for the hosts, who had not won in their previous seven matches at the Amsterdam Arena.

Brighton & Hove Albion signing Propper secured a halftime lead when he tucked home a cross from Daley Blind who provided a similar square ball for Robben to net the second goal after 67.

Bulgaria pulled one back within two minutes with Georgi Kostadinov claiming the final touch after a curling free kick by captain Ivelin Popov went straight through the defence. The Dutch restored a two-goal advantage in the 80th minute when Propper headed home Quincy Promes’ cross.

The Netherlands, thrashed 4-0 by France on Thursday, face Belarus away and Sweden at home in their last two qualifiers next month and can still finish in the top two.

The winners of the nine European groups qualify directly for the 2-10 finals in Russia while the best eight of the second-placed teams take part in two-leg playoffs for four more places.

Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris

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