Where’s it all gone wrong for Holland’s Euro 2016 qualifying push?
Five years ago the Netherlands were cursing their luck as they just succumbed to Spain in extra time of the World Cup final in South Africa.
Fast forward half a decade and the Oranje are at risk from even making it through to the European Championships, despite the fact that eight more nations will qualify.
If Turkey were to beat Iceland on Tuesday night, their quest for a spot in France next summer will be over regardless of their own result.
Even if the Scandinavian group leaders were to get the win in Konya, the onus would still be on the Dutch to pick up three points against Czech Republic, the team that beat them in their campaign opener.
With Danny Blind’s men 2/5 shots for victory in Amsterdam, we look at three places that it could explain where it has all gone wrong.
A change at the helm
Holland haven’t had a change of manager mid-way through a qualifying campaign in 30 years, so when Guus Hiddink departed in July the nation were entering new ground.
Could the change have hindered any chance of a recovery from a slow start to their qualifying?
Defeats on the road to Czech Republic and Iceland weren’t helpful from Hiddink, but it could be suggested that his replacement is a better assistant than man at the helm.
Blind has lost three of his five matches since taking charge, and has previous of causing a side’s form to slide when stepping out of a number two role.
In 2005 he replaced Ronald Koeman as Ajax boss. That season saw the side fall to fourth place in the Eredivisie, the only time they have ended outside of the first three since 2000.
He was returned as assistant in 2009 and enjoyed relative success under both Martin Jol and Frank de Boer
It may be too early to write him off as a boss, but the mounting evidence may suggest he is in the mould of a man better suited to the second-in-command position.
Inexperience in defence
While they haven’t been shipping goals for fun – second placed Czech Republic have conceded one more – the inability to keep clean sheets has been a thorn in Holland’s side.
Only Latvia have failed to breach the Dutch defence in their qualifying campaign. Even Kazakhstan, who have netted just six times, managed to bag in both matches with the Netherlands.
In many defences teams have that go-to-guy who shoulders the weight of expectation from years of experience and the international know-how to keep clean sheets.
But Danny Blind’s men cannot boast a single defender over the age of 27.
The back five that took to the field in their most recent victory over the Kazakhs boasted just 28 international caps between them.
It could be said that they lack a Jaap Stam or Edwin van der Sar to lead the younger generation at the back.
Or is it a simple lack of quality coming through?
The attacking ranks in the Dutch squad don’t have any of the worries about inexperience.
The quartet of Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Wesley Sneijder have all entered their 30s and are still very much a part of the international set-up.
While Huntelaar has continued to fire the goals in – and is the only one of his compatriots to net more than two goals in qualifying – the other trio are perhaps on the slide when it comes to form.
Sneijder is doing just OK in Turkey with Galatasaray, while RVP looked as miserable as ever in a recent Fenerbahce warm-up, and Arjen Robben looks like he has been made of glass the past few seasons.
So who do they have coming through to replace them?
Anwar El Ghazi, Georginho Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay may be solid enough options, but it can’t be said they have the world class credentials that the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Mark van Bommel and Raphael van der Vaart could offer in their pomp.
Yes, youth is the future. But if that youth is not good enough, then the near-future looks likely to see the Netherlands sit the next tournament out.
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