The Dutch return to the World Cup; qualifiers for Turkey, Ukraine

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The Netherlands will be back at the World Cup after an eight-year hiatus, forcing Norwegian star Erling Haaland to wait until at least 2026 to make his debut on the biggest stage.

The Dutch did just enough on Tuesday with late goals in a 2-0 victory in Rotterdam that knocked out the missing Norwegians Haaland, their 21-year-old striker injured.

Turkey overtook Norway in second in Group G, winning 2-1 over Montenegro to make the European qualifiers in March.

Ukraine also won away, 2-0 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to join Turkey as unranked teams that will once again be on the road in the playoff semi-finals.

The undefeated Ukrainians, who have drawn in six of their eight Group D games, climbed to second place ahead of Finland, who were eliminated by losing 2-0 at home to leaders France of the rank.

Kylian Mbappe allowed Karim Benzema to score in the 66th before securing the second himself 10 minutes later after a quick solo run down the left flank.

Wales and the Czech Republic kick off their Group E games on Tuesday, with the two heading into the qualifiers as the Belgian leader has already claimed direct qualification for the final tournament in Qatar.

Wales made sure they would be seeded in the playoffs as they drew 1-1 with the top-ranked Belgians in Cardiff to finish second in the group.

The Czechs, who beat visiting Estonia 2-0, placed third in the group and win one of two playoff entries for teams that won a Nations League group last year.

DUTCH RETURN

Dutch Memphis Depay, right, scores his side’s second goal in the 2022 World Cup Group G qualifying match between Netherlands and Norway at De Kuip Stadium in Rotterdam, the Netherlands on Tuesday November 16, 2021.

The Netherlands failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup despite being the defeated finalist in 2010 and reaching the semi-finals four years later under the coach of the time, Louis van Gaal.

Now 70 years old and treated with a new hip injury that prevented him from entering the dugout, Van Gaal oversaw Tuesday’s victory from a high seat in the stands at Rotterdam’s empty stadium.

At the start of the last 10 minutes, a goal from Norway could have completely eliminated the Dutch. The tension was banished by Tottenham winger Steven Bergwijn scoring with a hard upward shot in the 84th.

Barcelona striker Memphis Depay sealed the victory in stoppage time by finishing a breakaway thanks to an exposed Norwegian defense.

Van Gaal’s side finished two points clear of Turkey after the tightest three-way game in Europe’s 10 qualifying groups.

LINE OF PLAYOFFS

Turkey, Ukraine, Wales and the Czech Republic topped the list of 12 nations competing for three tickets to Qatar in a tense six-day stretch in March.

They will be in three knockout groups of four teams each when FIFA does the draw on November 26 in Zurich.

Wales are the only one playing on Tuesday to be among the six seeded teams to play at home in the semi-finals of the one-way playoffs on March 24 and 25. The other seeded teams are Italy, Portugal, Russia, Scotland and Sweden.

The unranked teams that will play away first are the Czechs, North Macedonia, Poland, Turkey, Ukraine and Austria, with the other team claiming their place via the Nations League.

The three playoff finals will be played on March 28 or 29. The home advantage for these one-match finals in each bracket will also be drawn by FIFA later this month.

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