The Dutch have gone from finishing the 2014 World Cup in third place, to just two years later failing to qualify for the 2016 European Championships and are now needing a miracle to come anywhere close to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Why has it all gone wrong for the Dutch?
On Sunday, the Dutch FA sacked manager Danny Blind after a horrific performance in their 2-0 defeat away at Bulgaria and also losing. Blind lasted 20 months and 18 matches in charge. Leaving the under 21 coach Fred Grim, in temporary charge of the side's upcoming match on Tuesday against Italy in Amsterdam for an international friendly.
The Oranje have long been associated with talented teams full of world-class players. Robin Van Persie, Ruud Gullit, Patrick Kluivert, Arjen Robben, Dennis Bergkamp, Marco Van Basten, Edwin van der Sar and many others are legends for their respected clubs and country.
Johan Cruyff inspired them to play 'total football' in the 1970s, as they reached their first ever World Cup final before losing to West Germany in the 1974 final. 14 years later Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gullit starred as they won the 1999 European Championships (In what remains their only ever major tournament to date). There's no doubt they've had some incredibly talented players over the last three decades since.
However, it's not all about the past when it comes to producing amazing footballing talent, the squad still consists of stars such as Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben. Although, they look a shadow of that team that made it to the 2010 World Cup final, where they were the second highest scorers in the tournament. Then only a year later in 2011, they topped the Fifa World Rankings after their record 11-0 win against San Marino.
Then just a few months later, the Oranje lost at home 3-2 to the Czech Republic which meant they missed out on qualification to the 2016 European Championships, which was truly astonishing to any football fan. The idea of Holland not being at a major tournament seemed inconcievable. Now, they look likely to miss out again at another major tournament, which will be the first time the Netherlands have missed back to back major tournaments since 1986!
As mentioned previously the talented trio of Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder still remain. However, Van Persie has been left out of many of the recent international squads, causing questions of his possible looming retirement, with him now at the age of 33, his Holland career seems all but over. Robben on the other hand, is also 33 and his performances for the national team have deteriorated, with him scoring just once in his last twelve appearances. Sneijder is 32 and he seems on the decline as well as he was recently left out of that 2-0 defeat in Sofia.
Personally I think the problem is much more than just poor management. If you look at the current squad you would say bar obviously Robben, there isn't anyone else that jumps of the team sheet apart from possibly Wijnaldum and Strootman, who you definitely wouldn't describe as game changing, world-class players. Promising players at under 21 level such as defender Daley Blind and wingers Ibrahim Afelay and Memphis Depay have certainly not lived up to their expected potential.
Striker Bas Dost has scored 18 goals this season for Sporting Lisbon, but managed just one goal in his whole international career. Other forwards Vincent Janssen and Luuk De Jong have similarly done well domestically over the past couple seasons, but together only have combined seven goals for the national team. Therefore, they crave a striker of the same sort of calibre that they had previously.
Qualification for the World Cup is essential to restore hope for the country in the 'beautiful game'. Although, it looks a mammoth task to beat Sweden for that playoff spot (who they are three points behind), whom they play in what could be a crucial clash in the last round of qualifying in Amsterdam on the 17th October. Up next, they face a favorable home tie against Luxembourg and out of their final five games, three of which are at home therefore, 9 points out of 9 must be obtained to even stand a chance.
Personally, no. I don't see the belief in the side and they lack any vocal leader on the pitch that might galvanize the team in my opinion. It also depends on who they appoint to succeed Blind as unfortunately I just can't see many volunteers attempting to rescue this sinking ship. I don't think Sweden will drop more than three points therefore I don't see the Dutch getting into the playoffs and if they did, qualifying through the playoffs as any football league fan will tell you, is a complete lottery.