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Men in black fall foul of Tour officials

RadioShack’s team colours are red and grey.

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However, seven-time champion Armstrong and his teammates showed up for the 20th and final stage wearing black outfits emblazoned with the number 28.

That is a reference to the 28 million people Armstrong’s Livestrong foundation estimates are living with cancer.

The American famously battled cancer in 1998 to return to racing and win the Tour seven times consecutively.

In recent years his Livestrong foundation has been involved in raising awareness, and funds, in a bid to beat the disease.

But his latest bid was kept in check by International Cycling Union (UCI) officials on Sunday.

After turning up wearing black for the 20th and final stage from Longjumeau to the Champs Elysees in Paris, the rest of the peloton had to wait while they were forced to change back to red and grey.

Race jury president Franceso Cenere told French TV: “It is forbidden to change jersey in a stage race without an authorisation from the UCI.

“They had to change jersey otherwise they would have been excluded from the race.”

Armstrong decided to try again after the stage, when he and his team turned up at the podium to receive their prize for dominating the teams’ classification wearing black.

“In the end, I think the fact we had to change the jerseys (before the stage) gave us some publicity,” Armstrong told France Televisions.

On what was his final Tour campaign, Armstrong finished the race nearly 40 minutes behind Spain’s three-time winner Alberto Contador, his former teammate at Astana in 2009.

The 38-year-old American is at the centre of serious doping allegations levelled recently by former teammate Floyd Landis.

Landis’s accusations have led to the launching of a federal investigation into alleged doping practices of Armstrong and other riders at his former team, US Postal.

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BP’s robot submarines cap oil leak

BP’s robotic submarines wrestled a cap into place over the jagged end of a pipe from ruptured well deep below the Gulf of Mexico, in a dramatic bid to stem a disastrous oil spill.

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Live video feed provided by BP showed the inverted, funnel-like cap being attached to the well’s fractured riser pipe in near-freezing waters, nearly a mile (1,600 meters) below the surface. BP aims to then siphon the oil to a ship on the surface.

Oil and gas continued to spew out unimpeded with great force, complicating efforts to determine whether the cap was in fact a good fit. BP officials and the US Coast Guard did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

But engineers have already acknowledged that the cap will not be a fix-all, and some of the crude will still spew out even if it is successfully placed over the gusher.

BP earlier managed to slice off the fractured well pipe with a pair of giant shears, but the cut was jagged and officials had to resort to a looser-fitting cap.

The British energy giant’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, has warned it could take about a day after the cap is put in place to know if it is managing to contain the worst of the spill, amid warnings that, with the broken pipe cut off, the oil flow would initially increase by up to 20 percent.

The firm has repeatedly tried — and failed — to contain the disastrous leak since an April 20 explosion tore through the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig just off the Louisiana coast.

Between 22 million and nearly 36 million gallons of crude have already spewed into Gulf waters, threatening vulnerable coastal wetlands, wildlife and livelihoods, according to US government estimates.

After the cap, the next chance to halt the flow would not come until mid-August, when relief wells are completed.

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Republicans are radicals: Obama

US President Barack Obama on Friday branded Republicans as radical and reactionary, in campaign appearances for high-profile Democratic senators under threat in November’s mid-term polls.

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Obama rallied crowds in Los Angeles, California, and was to move on to gambling paradise Nevada in a bid to rescue wobbling Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid, on the third day of a four-day campaign blitz.

He charged that the first Republican president, his political hero Abraham Lincoln would not be able to win the opposition party’s presidential nomination in the modern age.

“Seriously, can you imagine him trying to run with these folks?” Obama said, in a bid to portray the Republican Party as outside the mainstream ahead of November 2 congressional polls in which his Democrats fear heavy losses.

Obama accused Republicans of sitting on their hands while he saved the economy from a second Great Depression and of wanting to go back to the same lax regulatory regimes that caused the crisis in the first place.

“This agenda that poses as conservatism is not conservative. It resulted in a radical shift from record surpluses to record deficits, allowed Wall Street to run wild, nearly destroyed our economy,” Obama said.

“This is a choice between the past and the future, between fear and hope, between moving backwards and moving forwards. And I don’t know about you, but I want to move forward,” Obama said, at a campaign event for under-fire Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.

“They are clinging to the same worn-out, tired, snake-oil ideas that they were peddling before.”

At a second event in Los Angeles, featuring actor and comedian Jamie Foxx as a warm up act, Obama fired off his stump speech to a crowd of 32,500 people, as 5,000 more watched on a big screen set up in an overflow area.

Republicans need to win 39 seats to take back the House after four years of Democratic control — a task well within their reach with some analysts judging up to 90 races in the 435-seat chamber as competitive.

In the Senate, Republicans need a 10-seat swing, a result that may be beyond them after several races tightened in favor of Democrats in recent days, and a scenario of six or seven seats changing hands seems more likely.

Obama was later to head to Nevada to take part in a Democratic National Committee rally alongside Reid, who is the top Republican target in the election, and is locked in a close race with “Tea Party” conservative favorite Sharron Angle.

He was due to finish up a campaign swing, which has also taken in Oregon and Washington state, in Minnesota on Saturday.

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Bosnia move closer to qualification with win

Bosnia are level with Greece, 1-0 winners over Slovakia, on 22 points from nine games but with a vastly superior goal difference (+23) over their rivals (+6) before the final round of qualifiers on Tuesday.

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Bosnia visit Lithuania while Greece are at home to Liechtenstein in the climax to their neck-and-neck race for an automatic berth in next year’s finals in Brazil.

“It would be a disaster if we failed now and I am convinced that we will get the win we need in Kaunas,” Bosnia coach Safet Susic told state television BHT after his side scored four times in a frantic 12-minute first-half spell.

“We never doubted we would pick the lock. It was a question of time, and once we scored there was no stopping us from celebrating an emphatic victory.

“I told the players to slow down in the second half in order to avoid bookings and injuries.”

Edin Dzeko scored twice and Zvjezdan Misimovic and Vedad Ibisevic added the other two for Bosnia, who were treated to a standing ovation by their noisy fans after the final whistle.

Beaten in the reverse fixture 8-1 a little over a year ago, Liechtenstein held out for 27 minutes in a packed Bilino Polje stadium before Manchester City striker Dzeko opened the scoring with a downward header after a perfect cross from the right by Misimovic.

The midfielder turned scorer seven minutes later when he drilled in a crisp shot from 12 metres before Ibisevic and Dzeko netted inside a minute to send the home fans into raptures.

Stand-in right back Avdija Vrsajevic tormented the visitors with darting runs on his flank and his pinpoint deliveries set up Misimovic and Ibisevic for the second and third goals before Dzeko netted the fourth after a flowing team move.

Liechtenstein keeper Peter Jehle produced several fine saves early in the second half before Nicolas Hasler pulled one back on the hour for the visitors, steering in a shot off the crossbar.

The home side took their feet off the gas in the final third of the match, although Misimovic came close with a curling shot from the edge of the penalty area.

“We have made one of two steps towards the finals and it’s now up to us to finish the job in Lithuania,” Ibisevic said.

(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic, Editing by Sonia Oxley and Stephen Wood)

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Germany secure World Cup spot with win over Ireland

Sami Khedira’s deflected shot gave the hosts a 12th-minute lead and Andre Schuerrle made it 2-0 in the second half following a fine turn.

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Mesut Ozil then made sure of victory with the third goal in stoppage time.

Despite having more than half a dozen injury absentees, Germany were always in control with midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger back in the side after a six-month break to earn his 99th cap.

Germany have 25 points from nine games and an unassailable lead at the top of the group before they face second-placed Sweden in Stockholm on Tuesday.

Arsenal midfielder Ozil was played up front due to injuries to Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose as the hosts fielded six Bayern Munich players in their line-up.

Ireland, with interim coach Noel King in charge after the departure of Giovanni Trapattoni last month, went close through Kevin Doyle in the opening minutes before Germany stepped up a gear.

Khedira struck when his shot from the edge of the box went in off Ireland defender Ciaran Clark.

Keeper David Forde denied Germany a second goal in the 35th minute, spectacularly fisting a thunderous Schuerrle header away.

At the other end Clark almost made amends for his earlier mistake when his header hit the bar on the stroke of halftime.

Germany made it 2-0 in the 58th minute when Schuerrle controlled a fine Toni Kroos chip in the box before blasting the ball beyond Forde.

The Irish forced keeper Manuel Neuer to make a double save in the 73rd minute and Jerome Boateng responded for Germany with an unstoppable shot that rattled Forde’s crossbar.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Tony Jimenez)

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Bathurst will still surprise: Whincup

Low expectations for breaking the legendary Bathurst 1000 qualifying lap record won’t spell the end of high drama at Mount Panorama, according to V8 Supercars defending champion Jamie Whincup.

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Four-time Bathurst winner Whincup had believed, under the right conditions, the Car of the Future design introduced this year could help eclipse Greg Murphy’s 2003 time of two minutes, 6.86 seconds on the mountain – affectionately known as “the Lap of the Gods”.

But after “hauling” his Holden to clock the weekend’s fastest time (two minutes, 8.00 seconds) and claim provisional pole ahead of Saturday’s top 10 qualifying shootout, the series leader all but gave up on reeling in Murphy’s 10-year-old record – for now.

However, he claimed the hot, deteriorating track was to blame – not the new COTF set-up.

“I don’t think anyone here is happy. I think it will take a couple more years to really get right on top of these cars around this crazy place,” Whincup said.

But asked about the likelihood of breaking flying Kiwi Murphy’s now legendary time, Whincup said: “I think a V8 Supercar doing an eight dead (2:08.00) is hauling, don’t disrespect that.

“If I had my way I wouldn’t be too focused on the time.

“It is what is going on behind the scenes, whoever is competing against each other trying to be quickest still applies.

“Even if we are doing 2:10, 2:11, the same fun is going on behind the scenes.”

Ford threat Mark Winterbottom who was second fastest for the shootout was more blunt when asked about Murphy’s decade-long mark of Bathurst perfection.

“Do a 2:06.8? I think you are dreaming,” he said.

“But who knows? It might be overcast (for the shootout). Who can tell? But I wouldn’t think so.”

Holden’s Jason Bright – who was third fastest on Friday – believed the question should be asked after the Bathurst surface receives a facelift ahead of the 2014 race.

“It’s the greasiest I have ever felt it around here,” said Bright, who made his V8 debut way back in 1997.

“I have never had the car move around the way it has at the moment. Usually the car feels quite planted.

“I would put it down to track temperature more than anything else.”

Top 10 qualifying starts at 1700 AEDT.

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Finks gang disbanding in SA: court told

The Finks bikie gang is disbanding in South Australia, a court has been told.

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In a case involving a member of the gang, the SA District Court has heard that some Finks are joining another group called the Mongols.

But defence counsel Heath Barklay said his client, Dylan Jessen is not making the switch and is seeking a fresh start.

Jessen has pleaded guilty to a string of firearms offences while his former girlfriend, Jaymee Renee Noble, is also before the court and has pleaded guilty to one offence, illegally possessing a loaded gun which she hid in her underpants.

Mr Barklay told the court that he had recently received material, including recorded phone conversations, which included details of how the Finks were disbanding and some were joining the Mongols.

But he said his client was no longer associated with the gang and wanted to demonstrate to the court that he was “on the right path”.

“He’s making a break from it all,” Mr Barklay said on Friday.

Solicitor-General Martin Hinton described the prosecution as “upping the ante” in relation to the new information but conceded Jessen should be given an opportunity to convince the court that he had embraced a new life.

In relation to Noble, the court was told her actions in hiding the gun involved an incredibly stupid decision in a moment of panic when police entered Jessen’s home in November last year.

She had intended only to frustrate the police at the time.

The case against Jessen and Noble will return to court on October 30 for further submissions.

Earlier this week SA Attorney-General John Rau expressed concern that the US-based Mongols bikie gang was setting up in Australia and that some local members of the Finks were moving over to the other group.

“This crowd in the United States are a very serious, hardcore criminal group,” Mr Rau said.

“It appears they are wanting to have a chapter or a branch in Australia in the same sort of way as the Hells Angels do.”

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Del Piero stars in Sydney win

Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero capitalised on a couple of howlers from Newcastle’s Zenon Caravella to lead Sydney FC to a 2-0 home win over the Jets in the opening A-League game of the season.

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Del Piero, who notched 14 goals in his maiden A-League campaign last season, scored one and made one for Joel Chianese at Allianz Stadium, but Caravella played a part in both.

After 36 minutes, Del Piero worked his way into the penalty area, but appeared to have lost possession to Connor Chapman only to be gifted it back when midfielder Caravella ran into Chapman.

The veteran striker picked his way through what little defence was left and expertly slid the ball across goalkeeper Mark Birighitti into the far corner of the net.

Caravella, who signed a one-year contract extension earlier this week and is the nephew of Sydney coach Frank Farina, was also culpable for the second goal on the hour.

He was dispossessed by Del Piero, who fed the ball to Chianese who lashed a powerful shot into the net.

Sydney created far more chances against a Newcastle side lacking penetration up front, with strikers Emile Heskey, Michael Bridges and Joey Gibbs all on the injury list.

The Jets had a couple of decent chances after Chianese’s goal, but rarely exposed Sydney’s new-look rearguard, which included three newcomers to the club.

Adam Taggart flashed a strong header just over the bar and Craig Goodwin’s free-kick was saved by Sydney goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic.

Del Piero helped enliven the game after a dull first quarter.

Chianese had a shot blocked by Birighitti in a one-on-one situation created by a Del Piero pass.

Former Newcastle player Matt Thompson almost marked his Sydney debut with a goal when his 20 metre shot crashed off the crossbar and then bounced off Birighitti’s back.

Becoming progressively more involved, Del Piero sent a wicked 20 metre drive just over the bar a few seconds before halftime.

The Jets showed some nice touches early on through Nathan Burns, James Virgili and Craig Goodwin, but didn’t create any good first half chances.

Sydney coach Frank Farina described his team’s work ethic as sensational and was happy with their performance, especially given what he perceived as negative media comments about their prospects.

“Before the ball was even kicked there was a lot of pressure on us, myself, the team,” Farina said.

“It’s a good start, that’s about all.”

He said Sydney still had a lot of work to do, but looked solid defensively and described the debut of former Red Star Belgrade centre back Nikola Petkovic as outstanding.

He was quick to spread the praise across his side rather than focus on Del Piero.

“I thought he was very good tonight, but more so I think collectively we were good,” Farina said.

“There wasn’t a player out there that didn’t pull his weight or didn’t work hard.”

Newcastle coach Gary van Egmond said the Jets created their own misfortune with both goals and lamented his side’s inability to make inroads down the wings and build on a promising start.

“Early on we seemed to start to get on top and we looked extremely dangerous,” van Egmond said.

“But that comes back and bites you if you don’t start to take those chances.”

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John Kerry arrives in Kabul unannounced

US Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived unannounced in Kabul to try to advance troubled negotiations on some US troops staying in Afghanistan after 2014.

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President Hamid Karzai said this week he was prepared to walk away from the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) talks if Afghanistan was not happy with its conditions.

But the United States has repeatedly pressed for the pact to be signed by the end of this month so the US-led NATO military coalition can schedule its withdrawal of 87,000 combat troops by December 2014.

“President Obama and President Karzai reaffirmed both back in January that the goal here was to complete the BSA in October,” a state department official travelling with Kerry told reporters on Friday.

“We continue to believe that is both preferable and doable. It is only October 11 at this point and obviously it is desirable.

“Uncertainty about an incomplete BSA could erode the resolve among NATO allies: makes (it) more difficult to plan for the US, makes (it) more difficult to plan for our NATO allies. The goal has not changed and that is what we continue to press for.”

Karzai said he refused to be rushed into signing the deal and would first seek approval from a traditional grand assembly to be convened in about month’s time.

“If it doesn’t suit us and if it doesn’t suit them, then naturally we will go separate ways,” Karzai said in a BBC interview in Kabul broadcast on Monday.

The agreement would see a few thousand US troops remain in Afghanistan to train local forces and target al-Qaeda remnants.

According to the Afghan government, talks ground to a halt over US demands for the right to conduct unilateral military operations, and on how the US would protect Afghanistan.

The collapse of a similar agreement with Iraq in 2011 led to the US pulling troops out of the country, which is currently suffering its worst sectarian violence since 2008.

But Kabul has dismissed the possibility the US may enact the “zero option” of a complete pull-out after its troops have fought the Taliban for 13 years since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

“The BSA negotiations have been going on for 11 months. We are at a pivotal period,” the US official with Kerry said.

“We will be discussing where we are and see to continue to make progress. Negotiations were ongoing before we arrived and will be ongoing after we depart from Kabul. So that is not the expectation in terms of conclusion.”

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Exorcism lands four in jail in France

A French court has sentenced four people to between three and six years in jail over a violent, crucifixion-style exorcism carried out on a 19-year-old woman.

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The three men and a woman, members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, tied up the Cameroonian teenager in the position of Christ on the cross and kept her bound to a mattress for seven days in May 2011.

When police discovered the woman at a housing estate in Grigny in the southern Paris suburbs, she was emaciated, dehydrated, in a state of shock and showed signs of having been beaten.

The four, who are all of French Caribbean origin, insisted throughout the trial that the victim, named as Antoinette, had consented to the exorcism.

The court on Friday found them guilty of kidnap, but dismissed charges of torture and barbarism, and the sentences were lower than the eight to 12 years that the prosecution had called for.

Antoinette’s former boyfriend, Eric Derond, was considered the instigator of the assault, and was given the longest sentence of six years.

Reacting to the verdict, Antoinette, now 21, said she had hoped for tougher sentences against the four, who she called “dangerous people”.

Antoinette was 16 when she met her assailants through the Seventh Day Adventists, a US-based millennialist Protestant church which has millions of followers worldwide but only 13,000 in France.

During the trial, she said she had been “brain-washed”, becoming convinced that Derond was God. Her father told the court he believed she would have died within two days if police had not found her when they did.

The church says the people involved in the case were all expelled a year before the attack and has stressed that exorcism of this kind cannot be justified by any of its teachings.

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Israeli settler bludgeoned to death

Suspected Palestinian militants have bludgeoned to death a settler in the third killing of Israelis in the West Bank in as many weeks, police say.

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The wife of the murdered man, a retired army colonel, was also injured in the night-time attack on their home at the settlement of Brosh in the northern Jordan Valley on Friday.

The attack was followed by calls from rightwing Israeli MPs for the suspension of low profile peace talks between the two sides and of the expected release of more Palestinian prisoners.

Army radio named the dead man as Sarya Ofer, a former commander of Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip and of various special forces units.

Police said Ofer’s wife had suffered minor injuries.

They also said the killing was “definitely” the work of Palestinian militants, but an army spokeswoman said it was still too early to say what the motive was.

Public radio said the couple had been in their home when they heard a noise outside and dogs barking.

Ofer went to investigate and was attacked with iron bars and axes by two Palestinians, the station said. His wife Monique was also injured but escaped and raised the alarm.

The radio station said the couple lived alone at the isolated property, which they ran as a village guest house. There were no visitors at the time of the attack.

Police said later that a number of people had been detained for questioning, although they were not necessarily murder suspects.

Army radio said five Palestinians were being interrogated, and an AFP photographer saw soldiers leading away handcuffed men.

“No-one will rest until the murderers are brought to justice,” Israeli President Shimon Peres said in a statement.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel, a settler from the far-right Jewish Home party, called for action against the Palestinians in response.

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Children forced to rob, says French court

A French court has convicted 26 members of three Croatian Roma families of forcing children as young as 10 to carry out more than 100 robberies in European countries.

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The court in the eastern city of Nancy on Friday convicted all but one of the 27 accused, sentencing them to between two and eight years’ jail.

Police had testified during the trial that the gang traded in women and used children like conscripts in a criminal army.

Judges did not however follow prosecutors’ recommendations for some of the accused to face the maximum sentence of 10 years.

The court also dismissed charges of human trafficking against all but one of the accused, despite testimony brides were being bought then renounced when they did not bring in enough money to the gang.

“The judges dismissed the shameful charges of human trafficking and we welcome this decision to prevent stigmatisation,” said one of the defendants’ lawyers, Alain Behr.

The defence had contested the people trafficking charges, saying the financial transactions were part of traditional dowry arrangements.

The case was heard against the tense background of a debate in France over the treatment of Roma migrants from eastern Europe.

Police had testified at the trial that the group was behind more than 100 robberies carried out in 2011 alone in France and neighbouring parts of Belgium and Germany.

Most of the thefts were carried out by children as young as 10.

The evidence against the families was based on the tapped phone calls of 120 suspects which police said had revealed a Mafia-style structure in which clan chiefs were supported by a network of subordinate captains and lieutenants, who in turn ran the children at the bottom of the pyramid.

The suspected head of the operation – a 66-year-old woman – is to be tried separately.

Defence lawyers had questioned whether their clients could expect a fair trial in light of the atmosphere of hostility towards Roma amid ongoing controversy over a claim by Interior Minister Manuel Valls that most of them will never assimilate into French society and should be deported.

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Dutch record breaker Van Persie hits treble in 8-1 win

Van Persie took his tally to 41 in 80 appearances, passing Patrick Kluivert’s record on a night of clinical efficiency from the Dutch, who had already qualified for next year’s finals in Brazil and racked up their eighth win of the campaign.

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The Manchester United striker opened the scoring with a 15th minute header and equalled the national scoring record soon after as the Dutch dominated and went into the break 4-0 ahead.

Kevin Strootman and Jeremain Lens profited from defensive errors to increase the tally before halftime with Van Persie breaking the record with his third in the 52nd minute before being taken off to a standing ovation at the Amsterdam Arena.

There were also poignant sideline celebrations with Kluivert, now an assistant to Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal. But a toe injury almost kept Van Persie from playing.

“It was a gamble but it worked out well,” said the 30-year-old forward with some understatement.

A bizarre own goal from Szilard Devecseri in the 64th added to the Dutch total before late goals from free kicks by Rafael van der Vaart and Arjen Robben rounded off a high tempo performance.

“We put the opponent under pressure for the full 90 minutes,” said Van Gaal. “The effort and the willingness was enormous. It’s a difficult process to squeeze right from the start and then to sustain it.”

On Van Persie’s record-breaking night, Van Gaal told reporters: “It’s a great achievement, but ultimately is all about the way the team puts him in contention.”

Hungary’s goal came from a penalty converted by Balazs Dzsudzsak after a Jeffrey Bruma handball just after the break.

Netherlands have 25 points from nine games, with their final match against Turkey in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Turkey and Romania, who each have 16 points with one match remaining, are fighting it out for a playoff spot.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Mitch Phillips and Ken Ferris)