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The Netherlands suffered an upset 2-0 defeat to Bulgaria on Saturday, dashing their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
With three key defenders (Virgil van Dijk, Jeffrey Bruma and Stefan de Vrij) missing out due to injury, 17-year-old Ajax player Matthijs de Ligt made his debut in Sofa, the youngest ever Netherlands debutant in a qualifier. Unfortunately, it was De Ligt who misjudged a long pass only five minutes into the game, enabling Bulgarian strike Spas Delev to prod the ball past Dutch goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet. Fifteen minutes later, Delev scored again, hitting home with a thunderous drive from 18 metres.
The Netherlands failed to make a comeback, not even after Wesley Hoedt and Wesley Sneijder had replaced De Ligt and Georginio Wijnaldum at the start of the second half. It was an evening when nothing seem to work for the Dutch, who left the pitch in low spirits. Their hopes of reaching Russia next year now look very slim indeed. The Netherlands are now fourth in Group A, three points adrift of second-placed Sweden and six behind leaders France. Only the group winners will qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia with the eight best group runners-up will advancing to a play-off round.
The Netherlands host bottom team Luxembourg on June 9 in their next game in the group.
Nikolay Mihaylov (GK), Strahil Popov, Petar Zanev, Bojiar Chorbadjiiski, Simeon Slavchev, Georgi Kostadinov, Spas Delev, Ivelin Popov (C), Stanislav Manolev, Vasil Bozhikov, Alexandar Tonev
Substitutes: Nikolay Bodurov, Bojidar Kraev, Anton Nedyalkov
Jeroen Zoet (GK), Rick Karsdorp, Matthijs de Ligt, Bruno Martins Indi, Daley Blind, Kevin Strootman, Georginio Wijnaldum, Davy Klaassen, Quincy Promes, Bas Dost, Arjen Robben (C)
Substitutes: Wesley Hoedt, Wesley Sneijder, Luuk de Jong