Amsterdam, June 3: The Netherlands thrashed Northern Ireland 6-0 in a morale boosting friendly on Saturday before heading to the European Championship.
The mismatch pitted the fourth-ranked Netherlands against No. 100 in FIFA's world rankings, but will at least have served to boost confidence in the Dutch camp that had been criticized for lackluster performances in three other friendlies. Those ended in defeats to Bayern Munich and Bulgaria and a narrow victory over Slovakia.
Robin van Persie and Ibrahim Afellay grabbed two goals each and Wesley Sneijder curled in a free kick as the potent Dutch forward line cut through the Irish defense almost at will.
The Netherlands had a 4-0 lead at halftime and Afellay made it 5-0 shortly after the break before a string of substitutions broke the Dutch rhythm.
Defender Ron Vlaar headed home a corner in the 78th minute to complete the rout.
"We shouldn't start dancing in the streets, because we are not there yet," coach Bert van Marwijk said. "But we are on the right track."
Given space and time by the Irish, the Dutch stars showed off their skills and slick passing to run away with the match with Van Persie and Sneijder combining well in the center, while the shaky Netherlands defense was barely tested.
"If the team plays well, then the class players up front can make the difference," captain Mark van Bommel said.
But hammering such a lowly opponent will do little to prepare the World Cup runner-up for the European Championship's toughest group: Germany, Portugal and Denmark — all in the world top 10.
Van Marwijk started with the team he is expected to field next Saturday in the Netherlands' first Group B match, against Denmark, with English Premier League top-scorer Van Persie at center forward rather than Bundesliga top-scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
The Arsenal captain immediately repaid his coach's confidence by heading home Sneijder's deep cross in the 11th minute for his 27th goal in his 65th international.
Sneijder doubled the lead just four minutes later from a free kick, and Van Persie made it 3-0 with a 29th-minute penalty.
Ibrahim Afellay, playing only his second international since recovering from a serious left knee injury, completed the first-half scoring in the 37th, ending a flowing move from left to right with a low, first-time shot past goalkeeper Lee Camp.
The midfielder opened the scoring after the break after another swift attack. Robben passed from the right to Van Persie, who laid the ball back for Afellay to fire just inside the post.
Substitute Rafael van der Vaart and Robben both went close before defender Ron Vlaar scored his first international goal, with a powerful header, to make it 6-0.