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Could The Netherlands Really Miss Out On Euro 2016?

It would be disastrous if the Netherlands didn’t qualify for the UEFA Euro 2016 in France. But, with only two games before the end of qualifying group stages, the Dutch National team sits fourth in their group, trailing Iceland, the Czech Republic and Turkey. What should have been a winnable group and a doable job proved more difficult than expected.

Although Euro 2016 has 24 countries participating, meaning that qualifying should have been easy for a team of this caliber, the Netherlands failed in nearly every aspect of qualification. With only 10 points in eight games, the Elftal has only two games remaining to close the gap on Turkey and claim the third spot in Group A. While the group winners and second placed teams qualify immediately for the Euro 2016, only the best third-placed team has a guaranteed spot in France next year. All other third placed teams have to go through a play-off round, during which only the winners qualify for the Euro.

For the Netherlands, the last option is the only option. Winning the last two games is a must and at the same team they have to hope that Turkey will lose one of their games. With opponents like Czech Republic and Iceland, a slip from the Turkish National team is possible, but no guarantee.

The Netherlands have qualified for every UEFA Euro since 1984, clinching a Top three spot four times. The Euro 2012 was, however, a disaster for the Elftal, losing all three games in their group and ending up fourth place in their group, finishing their campaign early. This time, the Netherlands might not even have the chance to play such a bad Euro, as they might fail in the attempt of qualifying for the final round. And did I mention that the last time the Netherlands failed to qualify for the Euro was 1984 in France.

So what are the reasons for this disastrous qualifying round? Is it bad luck, arrogance, the lack of motivation, bad coaching or just the fact that the Netherlands don’t want to play a Euro in France?

Well actually, it might be a mix of all of those, except for the last part.

The Dutch team was never able, during any their games, to reach their World Cup high. Although having more possession and chances created in nearly all their games, the Dutch team never showed the needed clinical finishing to score goals. They even failed to score a single goal against Iceland, losing 2-0 and 1-0 against the island nation.

It gets even worse: the Oranje only took one(!) point against the other contestants for a Top three spot, losing twice against Iceland and taking a meager point against Turkey. They  also lost their first game against Czech Republic. Only winning against Latvia and Kazakhstan is not impressive and definitely doesn’t warrant a spot in the Euro 2016.

The change of head coach after the World Cup did not contribute favorably to the overall Dutch performance. Louis van Gaal left his coaching position for Manchester United, but the Dutch National team seemingly found an adequate replacement in Guus Hiddink. Hiddink, however, never got the team on the same level as van Gaal did and the new head coach had to see his men lose five out of the 10 games he was coaching. After less than a year in office, Hiddink left his position, making way for Danny Blind. Blind had a terrible introduction to international soccer, losing both of his first two games. It is never good to switch coaches mid-campaign (unless, perhaps, you’re Mexico), and the Dutch performances proved exactly that.

On the bad luck part, the Netherlands have to play without one of their best players, Arjen Robben. The Dutch international and Bayern star injured himself against Iceland, forcing him out four weeks. Bitter news not only for the Elftal, but also for the German record champion. Other than Robben, all of the Dutch stars are fit for international action, but all of them failed to impress over recent games.

Another interesting factor came to light after Robben’s early injury against Iceland. Nearly the whole squad laid their hopes on young international Memphis Depay, who, at only 21 years of age, seemed to carry the pressureof the whole Dutch squad on his shoulders. This tactic cannot and will not work for the future.

Maybe the squad was too sure of easy qualification, maybe they entered the stage with too much arrogance, and who would have guessed that Iceland, the Czech Republic, and Turkey would be such tough opposition during this group stage for the Number three in the world.

It seems that the Elftal have a couple of difficult months coming up, and while there is a big question mark behind Arjen Robben for the next two decisive games, it is time for others to step up. If not, there will be a Euro 2016 without the Netherlands.

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