AMSTERDAM (AP) Iceland beat the 10-man Netherlands 1-0 on Thursday to take a big step toward qualifying for next year’s European Championship.
Arjen Robben’s first match as Netherlands captain lasted less than a half hour before he left the pitch injured and was replaced by Luciano Narsingh.
And Danny Blind’s debut as national coach went from bad to worse in the 33rd minute when referee Milorad Mazic showed defender Bruno Martins Indi a direct red card for making a striking movement with his arm as he tumbled to the ground in a tackle with Kolbeinn Sigthhorsson.
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Blind, a former fan favorite at Amsterdam Arena in his playing days with Ajax, was loudly booed when he pulled off striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and replaced him with Jeffrey Bruma in an attempt to shore up the Dutch defense.
”This is not the scenario you have in mind for your first match as Netherlands coach,” Blind said.
The Netherlands travels to Turkey for a must-win match for both teams on Sunday. Blind said Robben would not travel to Turkey, though he said he did not know the nature of the injury.
”If you get four points from these two games, you have your fate in your own hands,” Blind said as he explained the Huntelaar substitution on national broadcaster NOS.
Gylfi Sigurdsson converted a 51st-minute penalty for Iceland after Gregory van der Wiel brought down Birkir Bjarnason.
In other Group A qualifiers, substitute Valerijs Sabala scored an injury-time equalizer as Latvia drew 1-1 with Turkey, and Milan Skoda scored both of his team’s goals as the Czech Republic came from behind to beat Kazakhstan 2-1.
The top two in each group qualify automatically for France. The best third-placed team also qualifies automatically, and the other eight teams can qualify through a playoff.
The results left Iceland top of the group ahead of the Czechs, with the Netherlands third, a point ahead of Turkey.
”The reality is clear: We have to go for third place,” Blind said.
Sigurdsson must wish he played only the Netherlands – the midfielder scored both goals in Iceland’s 2-0 home defeat of the Dutch last October.
With Iceland seemingly content with the 1-0 scoreline, the Netherlands pushed forward late in the game, but could not produce a shot with enough venom to beat Hannes Halldorsson in the Iceland goal.
Blind was highly critical of Martins Indi, saying his red card was the turning point in the match and calling the defender’s actions ”unbelievably unprofessional.”