PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — The Netherlands squandered a chance to qualify for the World Cup on Saturday when it gave up a two-goal lead in the final minutes to draw 2-2 in Montenegro when victory would have ensured a place in Qatar next year.
Barcelona striker Memphis Depay scored twice to put the Dutch in control, but with just eight minutes of regular time remaining Montenegro struck back.
Substitute Ilija Vukotić pulled his team back into contention when he ran onto a pass behind the defense and rounded Justin Bijlow to score in the 82nd minute. Nikola Vujnović brought the scores level four minutes later, leaping over Daley Blind to head into the far corner.
“I don’t know what to say. Unbelievable,” Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk told Dutch broadcaster NOS.
“It’s scandalous how we played in the second half,” he added.
The Netherlands still leads Group G by two points from Turkey and can qualify Tuesday by beating Norway in Rotterdam. The match will be played behind closed doors amid a new partial coronavirus lockdown in the Netherlands. Turkey plays Montenegro in its last match, and Gibraltar hosts Latvia.
Victory would have meant a return to the World Cup for the Netherlands next year after failing to qualify for Russia in 2018. The Dutch, three times a losing World Cup finalist, finished third in Brazil in 2014, also under Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal during his second stint in charge of the national team.
Turkey and Norway are level, two points behind the Dutch, with Turkey ahead on goal difference in the fight for second place and a playoff berth after beating Gibraltar 6-0 in Istanbul.
Depay converted a 25th-minute penalty after Marko Jankovic had brought down Davy Klaassen on the edge of the area. It was Depay’s 10th goal of the qualification campaign.
He made it 2-0 and became the all-time leading scorer in World Cup qualifiers for the Netherlands with 14 goals courtesy of a smart finish from close range after a low cross from the right by Denzel Dumfries in the 54th minute.
Depay now has 37 goals for his country, bringing him level with Dennis Bergkamp and Arjen Robben. Robin van Persie is top scorer with 50 goals.
But it wasn't enough for the win.
“It’s a waste," Depay told NOS. "We worked hard and had it under control and then in a few minutes you totally give it away. That is super-stupid.”
Earlier in Oslo, Southampton forward Mohamed Elyounoussi thought he had finally broken down the stubborn Latvian defense with a late effort, but the goal was disallowed for offside by VAR. Norway was playing without injured striker Erling Haaland at the Ullevaal Stadium.
While Oslo could not find the net, Turkey did it three times in each half against Gibraltar. Kerem Akturkoglu opened the scoring in the 11th minute and Dervisoglu scored twice inside four minutes to make it 3-0 at halftime. Demiral, Dursun and Mert Muldur completed the scoring after the break.
The second-place team goes into a 12-team playoff that includes runners-up in the 10 groups plus two group winners from the UEFA Nations League.
Host Qatar, Belgium, Germany, France, Denmark and Brazil have already qualified for the World Cup next year.
The Associated Press