After another shambolic round of Euro 2016 qualifiers, Danny Blind’s Netherlands side are on the verge of a shock premature exit from the tournament before it even truly begins, just one year after claiming a third place finish at the World Cup in Brazil.
The Netherlands were left with a job to do in replacing Louis van Gaal following last summer’s tournament, with the Dutch boss departing to take over at Premier League giants Manchester United. The veteran manager had put together a team made up of young Eredivisie talents such as Daley Blind, Daryl Janmaat, Bruno Martins Indi and Memphis Depay, playing a central role alongside experienced stars such as Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie.
Fellow compatriot Guus Hiddink must have thought he had been handed one of the easiest jobs in football when he was announced as Van Gaal’s successor, but he soon found out that it wasn’t quite as easy as it looked. The initial plan was for Hiddink to stay on until after the European Championship, with Blind then taking the helm, but some disappointing results saw his reign come to an end earlier this summer.
With Blind now in control, the former international has enlisted former Oranje legends Ruud van Nistelrooy and Marco van Basten as his assistant managers, who join the army of former players that Hiddink recruited last year, with the likes of Patrick Lodewijks, Pierre van Hooijdonk, Aron Winter and Sonny Silooy making up the backroom staff.
Although, despite the array of experience offering a helping hand behind the scenes, both Hiddink and Blind have failed to replicate the same level of performance that Van Gaal managed to get out of the same squad.
Of the eight Euro 2016 qualifiers that the side have played so far, they have won just three – two against Latvia and one against Kazakhstan, which has left them trailing behind Iceland, Czech Republic and Turkey in the Group A standings.
This past week saw them face two of those sides in Iceland and Turkey, and Blind’s squad selection saw him come under scrutiny from both the media and the fans. Clearly a reaction to the lackluster results of late, the Dutch boss opted to leave out the likes of Daryl Janmaat and Erik Pieters, and handing unexpected call-ups to the likes of Kenny Tete, Vurnon Anita and Jairo Riedewald.
The changes are likely a signal to his players that they aren’t irreplaceable, but none of the new recruits managed to inspire victory, and a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Iceland was topped by Turkey’s 3-0 demolition of the struggling side on Sunday evening.
The latest defeat, which saw Turkey move two points clear of their opposition, has left the Netherlands on the brink of failing to qualify for the European Championship finals for the first time in over 30 years. Blind’s side now rely on Turkey dropping points in their final two qualifying matches if they are going to clinch third place, which would give them a last-gasp chance at qualification via a play-off.
It is certainly achievable, and with Turkey facing the top two in Czech Republic and Iceland in October, it is highly likely that they will drop some points. Although, to pull of the unexpected would require the Netherlands to turn things around before the next international break comes around, and after such woeful displays this week, which now seems highly unlikely.
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