AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Robin van Persie broke the Netherlands' goal scoring record when he struck a hat-trick to reach 41 international goals in their World Cup qualifier against Hungary on Friday.
The striker netted after 15, 42 and 52 minutes to break the 40-goal record held by Patrick Kluivert as the Dutch won 8-1 in a devastating reminder of their potential as a serious candidate at next year's finals in Brazil.
"It was great especially as I almost didn't play," said the 30-year-old Van Persie, who was doubtful in the build-up to the game because of a toe injury suffered playing for Manchester United in the Champions League last week.
"We only made the decision to go ahead an hour before kickoff. I had hardly trained this week," he told reporters.
His first goal was a close-range header followed by a much more spectacular effort from a similar distance three minutes before halftime.
Van Persie celebrated equalling the national scoring record by jumping into the arms of Kluivert, who was watching from the Dutch bench where he was working as one of the assistants to national team manager Louis van Gaal.
He broke the record after halftime before Van Gaal took the striker off to a standing ovation from a sell-out Amsterdam Arena.
Van Persie made his international debut in June 2005 against Romania and on Friday won his 80th cap.
Of his 41 goals, 29 were scored with his left foot, four with his right and eight from headers. He is also top scorer in the 2014 European qualifying competition with 11 goals.
"My record had to be broken eventually," Kluivert told SBS6 television. "I'm delighted because Robin and I work together ahead of each international.
"It's only a pleasure for me as an assistant coach that he scores so often. I held the record for 10 years and I'm really proud of that."
The Dutch became the first European side to qualify for the World Cup last month when they beat Andorra 2-0 with a Van Persie double.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris)