Euro 2016: Netherlands nightmare as reality sets in


Story highlights

Netherlands fails to qualify for Euro 2016

Dutch beaten 3-2 by Czech Republic in final group game

Team finished third at 2014 World Cup

CNN —  

From “Total Football” to total failure – in just over a year.

Nobody ever thought that the Netherlands would not be invited to Europe’s biggest summer party in 2016 but the team which wowed in Brazil and reached the World Cup semifinals has somehow failed to reach France.

That’s right, those men in the wonderful orange shirts and their army of fans will not be at the European Championship finals after suffering embarrassment in qualifying.

Needing to win against the Czech Republic on Tuesday, Robin van Persie scored a rather bizarre own goal as his team fell to a 3-2 defeat against a side which played with 10 men for the entire second half.

The failure is even more embarrassing given the tournament has been extended from 16 to 24 teams – meaning that the team could still finish in the top two to qualify while third would result in a playoff place.

But it couldn’t even manage that – finishing below the Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey, which booked its place in the finals courtesy of being the bet third-placed team in the nine-group qualification phase.

That means while the likes of Northern Ireland, Albania, Iceland and Wales will be starring in France, the Dutch national team will have to make do with watching on television.

But how did this happen? Just over a year ago, hopes were high as Netherlands reached the last four of the World Cup.

It had thrashed reigning champion Spain 5-1 in the opening game with Van Persie scoring an astonishing header.

Defeat in the semifinal by Argentina on penalties denied it a second consecutive appearance in the World Cup final – four years earlier it had lost 1-0 to Spain in South Africa after extra-time.

What’s gone wrong?

Back in 1988 the Netherlands won the European Championship finals with a team comprising of some of the world’s greats.

Marco van Basten, the iconic forward, was joined by Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Ronald Koeman.

In the 1990s they produced players like the mercurial Dennis Bergkamp, who scored one of the greatest World Cup goals in 1998 against Argentina.

But nowadays there’s a gap between those in their early 20s at the start of their careers like Memphis Depay, the Manchester United star, and those coming towards the end of their time with the international team such as Van Persie.

Those once bright orange shirts have lost their sheen – the romance, the thrill, the artistry, have all slowly faded.

“I think there are some structural problems and also some short-term problems,” David Winner, author of the book “Brilliant Orange,” told CNN.

“The short-term problems were that the campaign got off to a rotten start. I think the Dutch were overconfident – ‘we’re the third best team in the world don’t you know?’

“So they approached their early games in the qualification round with a slightly lackadaisical attitude.

“Then there were terrible defensive errors and then panic started to spread and by the time they realized the predicament they were in they were beyond help and changed manager which didn’t do any good.”

02:26 - Source: CNN
David Winner on why the Dutch failed

Johan Cruyff, arguably the nation’s greatest ever player, was voted European Player of the Year on three separate occasions, won three European Cups with Ajax and led the Dutch to the World Cup final in 1974.

Writing in his column for de Telgraaf, he said: “People did not wonder after the World Cup in Brazil how it had gone this far. Things were back to normal for most after that somewhat surprising third-place finish. And now they are facing the consequences.”

The reaction

Social media was awash with reaction to the team’s failure.