The Netherlands have missed out on qualification for their second major tournament in a row, as they were unable to beat Sweden by the required seven goals to reach the World Cup finals. The Oranje were not able to qualify for the UEFA European Championship in the summer of 2016 either. This has left fans of the team and football in general to wonder what exactly happened to one of the top national teams of the past decade, and what the future holds.
“After the result in Sweden we could not do much more than come out with our chests out. But to win 8-0 in Belarus was never going to be realistic. And 7-0 at home against Sweden, that’s not going to happen either,” said team captain Arjen Robben.
Fans should have expected a decline as former superstars Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie and more battled Father Time, but no one expected a team with so much history and prestige to see such a drastic downfall. Topping France in their qualifying group was perhaps never a possibility, but they were still expected to finish above a feisty Sweden side. There is still plenty of Dutch talent to go around; names such as Bas Dost, Kevin Strootman, Virgil van Dijk, and Georginio Wijnaldum tend to jump off team-sheets. With other similar players in the squad, not qualifying for the World Cup should have never been a reality.
After Louis van Gaal’s successful spell and move to Manchester United, the Oranje have struggled to find another manager to match his quality. Guus Hiddink and Danny Blind were both given trials, but neither proved to be capable enough to keep the Netherlands in the conversation of elite national teams.
Current manager, Dick Advocaat, has done a good job considering the position he was thrown into, winning four out of five matches. Although this is encouraging, he did not reach the objective of qualifying for the World Cup. Advocaat is by no means the scapegoat of the current situation the team finds itself in, but he cannot be relied upon to be the manager of the future. He is already 70 years old and retirement will be calling his name sooner rather than later.
An interesting candidate for the manager position that the team must consider is Giovanni van Bronckhorst. The former national team captain is only 42 and has been very successful with his Feyenoord side in the Dutch Eredivisie. His relatively young age and knowledge of modern football would definitely help a team struggling to move into a new era and create a new identity.
Talent isn’t an issue for the Netherlands. Currently there aren’t any ‘superstars’ like there were in the past, but there’s plenty of talent to be able to qualify for major tournaments. Many of the players from the 2014 World Cup semi-final squad are in their prime or just about to hit their prime, and many of those have also recently transferred to new and more competitive club teams.
Besides the players already available, the youth teams have also been making waves. The Under-19 squad made it to the semi-finals of the 2017 Under-19 European Championship, and looked very impressive in doing so. The current players now face the task of looking beyond the success of the past, and realising the team’s potential lies solely in their hands.
One would think the team should face no struggles qualifying for the next European Championship in 2020. The tournament switched to 24 teams instead of 16, so missing it twice in a row would be embarrassing. The fans and the team must come together and embrace their new identity. It will be hard to move on from the days of being one of the best teams in Europe and the world, but it must be done. Doing so will allow the young players to potentially flourish and restore the name of the Oranje.
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