Next year’s European Championships was supposed to be easy to qualify for, due to the expansion of the finals to 24 nations.
That meant the top two teams from each group made it to the finals, with the third-place teams going into a play-off, and even the third placed team with the highest points making it to France.
Somehow one of the most highly-regarded teams in European football the Netherlands failed to even make third spot in what looked like a comfortable group.
The Oranje finished their qualification group with a 3-2 defeat at home against Czech Republic on Tuesday night. The defeat brought to an end a miserable qualification campaign.
Danny Blind’s side finished fourth in a group containing the likes of Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey, hardly powerhouses of European football.
The Dutch have endured an almighty fall from grace in just over a year. At last year’s World Cup in Brazil the Oranje surprised everybody by claiming third-spot. In truth much of that achievement was put down to the managerial skills of now Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal.
Not much was expected from the Dutch in Brazil, but they over-achieved and made it to the semi-finals of the competition. Van Gaal had already stated that he would step down as boss, and the Dutch football federation had already selected Guus Hiddink as his replacement.
Van Gaal was the sort of iron-fisted boss the Dutch needed. He was not afraid to upset the big players, or bruise a few egos. That is why he helped the team progress at the World Cup.
Hiddink was rather less strong in his managerial style and the team responded with poorer results and less impressive performances. Hiddink’s second spell in charge of the Dutch lasted around a year, before he quit his post in June with the team struggling in their qualification group.
Former-Ajax and Holland legend Danny Blind took the job, but has lost all three of the games he has presided over. The fact that he was Hiddink’s assistant earlier in the campaign will not have helped his chances of success.
Hiddink has to take a huge slice of the blame for the failure, but Blind should not be spared some of it. Blind’s position is not under immediate threat, but his position will be reviewed in 2016. I cannot see Blind getting a glowing report after such poor performances.
From what respected Dutch journalists have been writing and saying, it seems that they believe the team would have qualified comfortably from their group if the team had a decent manager at the helm.
Dutch teams in recent years have had a reputation for having players who are egotistical, flaky and hard to manage. There always seems to be a bust-up ready to occur in the Dutch camp. That is why the Oranje need a strong-willed boss like Van Gaal.
The KNVB showed very little imagination or thought in appointing Hiddink for a second reign, and Blind’s appointment really showed a lack of vision.
Southampton boss Ronald Koeman has been consistently linked with the position, but has denied that he would consider the role just yet. However, it is one of his ambitions to manage his country at some point in his career.
Koeman is a Dutch football icon from his playing days and maybe he is the man to revive his national team. He is well respected in his home country, so maybe that respect would help the Oranje to become successful.
The Netherlands does still have some good talent in the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. The latter is the main man for the Oranje, but has endured numerous injury problems in the last year.
All three of the players mentioned above are now aging and the next generation has to step-up to the plate. The likes of Manchester United winger Memphis Depay and Newcastle playmaker Georginho Wijnaldum are the sort of players that the Oranje need to step-up, so that that they do not have to depend on the older players.
Whatever way anybody looks at the Netherlands Euro 2016 qualification campaign it can only be described as dreadful. The Oranje were regarded as resounding favourites to top a favourable group, but somehow managed to finish fourth.
There now needs to be some serious questions asked about the Dutch players and management team, because their performances in Euro 2016 qualification were simply unacceptable.
Who is to blame for the Dutch’s failure to make Euro 2016?