Blog Archives

No Lions in Paris

(EPA)

(EPA)

Dutch tourism to France may be at an all-time low next summer.

The Netherlands soccer team suffered a devastating 3-2 loss today against the Czech Republic, who were not very kind visitors in the Amsterdam Arena. Missed opportunities for goals throughout 93 minutes, porous defending in the back and Robin van Persie’s miscalculation that resulted in an own goal sealed their fate.

It should be noted van Persie did score against the Czech Republic, along with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Since the Dutch were hanging by a thread of hope and a prayer (a must-win game and Iceland victory) before kickoff, the odds against their qualifying for the playoff to then qualify to the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament in France were very high.

Still, the Oranje players and dedicated fans (myself included) had faith in an epic turnaround.

Despite injuries to key players (including, but not limited to Arjen Robben, Jasper Cillessen and much of its defense), it was expected that the Netherlands would be able to control its games and earn enough wins and ties to book its ticket to France in the summer of 2016.

They didn’t.

“…Netherlands finished fourth in the group and failed to qualify for the European Championships for the first time since 1984…”
–Tom Webber, Goal.com

Great teams in all sports experience injury woes that can paralyze their chances at grand success. Some of these teams manage to squeeze out wins, even when the odds were all against them. Even though the Dutch have had their pitfalls throughout its history (internal turmoil, lack of motivation), they have also had moments of glory and the best kinds of shock-and-awe. Just last summer, the Dutch finished third in the World Cup.

And this is where this defeat stings the most.

The expectations were and are sky high for this squad, as in a championship-level altitude. Some of the best players in the world are on this team. Let’s take a closer look with their age in parenthesis:

  • Arjen Robben (31)
  • Wesley Sneijder (31)
  • Robin van Persie (32)
  • Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (32)
  • Rafael van der Vaart (32)

The fact is those listed above, a golden generation in their own right, have world-class talent, pace and vision. Age has not slowed them down. However, the reason for listing the aforementioned players who define the explosive and creative offense identity of the Dutch is to acknowledge that this was the last UEFA Euro tournament they could have competed for within their peak years.

As a tried-and-true Dutch fan for more than 15 years, it’s painful to even concede this reality.

The final score today was a disqualifying loss, but the opportunity to play for and potentially win a defining European championship was the real loss and it was (and is) gut-wrenching.

There are many questions to be answered in the coming days, weeks, months:

  • Is head coach Danny Blind to blame when he had such a limited, bleak chance of success?
  • Who will be the head coach for the 2018 World Cup qualifying?
  • What players listed above will be leading the Dutch towards the next World Cup in Russia?
  • Aside from Daley Blind, can the Netherlands find high-quality defenders?
  • How quickly can this team fix its problems and return to playing world-class soccer/Total Football?

Fortunately, the KNVB’s current golden generation has a proficiency for answering its harshest critics every couple of years. They have one more chance lift a trophy to solidify their golden Oranje legacy.

From Russia, with love of strength and the World Cup trophy, 2018 is the mission of a lifetime.

Déjà Vu’s Comforting Goal

Iceland 1 – Netherlands nil.

When will this nightmare end?

The shocking struggles of the Oranje, following a third place finish at last year’s World Cup with a strikingly similar squad, leaves fans of this small, yet immensely talented soccer nation in a sustained state of disbelief. With just three games remaining in the qualifying stage of the UEFA Euro 2016, the Dutch are in third place with 10 points, 6 shy of the Czech Republic and 8 short of football’s current Cinderella: Iceland.

Math is increasingly becoming the 12th eligible player against the Netherlands.

In Danny Blind’s first game as the new Dutch manager, he faced an uphill battle with an injury to his new captain Arjen Robben and a red card from defender Bruno Martins Indi in the first half and a penalty for Iceland minutes into the second half. It’s difficult to render a legitimate verdict against Blind at this point. He deserves time and a healthy roster to make a remarkable (and necessary) comeback for his home country in order to plan the coveted business trip to France for UEFA Euro 2016.

However, not substituting in Robin van Persie in the second half when they needed a goal? That’s one question that Mr. Blind needs to answer.

As a loyal Dutch fan for many, many years now, the Netherlands’ second group loss to Iceland was unthinkable. They have the talent, a new coach’s perspective and home filed advantage. Surely, a win was coming.

Nope.

It was a little more than year ago when the Dutch shocked Spain and the world in the best way imaginable. Spain’s reign at the top of world soccer was officially over and they knew it. Here’s a much-needed throwback this Thursday to the 2014 World Cup’s thrilling opening match.

I still believe: Hup Holland Hup.