With the Euro having the format of top 24 teams to play in the finals it is a real shock that the Dutch do not feature in that group. From pushing a golden Spanish team to the extra time in 2010 final in South Africa, to taking the best strike line of the World featuring the likes of Messi, Aguero, Lavezzi, Higuain to the penalties in Brazil it’s really a shame that the Oranges won’t play a part in 2016 Euro.
It is really interesting to actually analyze how a team having the likes of Van Persie, Sneijder, De Jong and Robben which basically decimated a Spanish golden generation in Brazil pumping in 5 goals and completing the revenge act in the most brute way, actually manage to pull off probably the biggest shock of the 2016 Euro before even the finals started.
Group of Death in the qualifiers:
Grouped in with the likes of Czech Republic, Turkey and Iceland the Dutch were unlucky enough to be in that group. Turkey over the years have evolved greatly and have taken full advantage of being under UEFA. The likes of Arda Turan, Hamit Altintop bear the testimony of the above statement. Czech Republic is an old name and taking them lightly is the last thing that any big team does.
This year’s Euro Qualifiers have been made special by the Scandinavians. It was sort of a revival of sorts from the abyss. Denmark, Sweden were the perennial powerhouse from the region Norway was good but their impact was not that great. Iceland on the other hand have made the impact this year being the only team with direct passage to the finals. So clubbed with this team was a tricky proposition and finally the dreaded outcome.
Ageing Stars and a unusual lack of young blood in PSV and Ajax:
The likes of Van Persie, De Jong, Sneijder, Robben, Huntelaar are well past their prime. It is quite evident from their respective club team actions. Van Persie have ended up in Fenerbache discarded by Manchester United and it actually a sorry figure there also. Same is the scenario for Wesley Sneijder playing in Galatasaray.
He is no longer the player he was in his prime. Though he was never the one who did a hell lot of helping in the defense but his creativity and work load covered up that deficiency. Robben missed out on important matches due to injuries which is definitely not a surprising thing being on the wrong side of the 30. De Jong being the lone sturdy midfield marshal after the retirement of Van Bommel, who used do the dirty work in the midfield is also frozen by injuries and was also not very effective in the ones he played.
So the obvious question is now how did the real scenario get manifested. As is pretty well-known both Ajax and PSV academies are the Mecca of future talent and super stars of tomorrow. But over the past few years there is a genuine lack of good young talent in their ranks and this is in a way forcing the likes of Danny Blind or Hiddink to revert to old stars, who are also not performing well.
The blend of experienced and young is definitely missing. Such scenarios do take place when a golden generation is well past their prime and there is a lack of good young players the process of passing on the baton becomes a painstaking thing as the stars do really do a good job in blending with the new generation who in this case is seriously lacking the talent of their predecessors.
Tactical mistake by the coaches:
This is one area where Van Gaal really showed in farsightedness and his keen understanding of the game and knowledge of the resources he has at his disposal. Flashback to the World Cup Spain vs Netherlands. Van Gaal loaded his midfield with players leaving the onus of scoring to just three players assisted by the wing backs.
Given the freedom and the permission to do anything and not having to worry about defensive duties in case of counter attacks while making counter attacks their main foray the likes of Persie, Robben and Sneijder wreaked havoc. The job of winning the ball in the midfield was left to De Guzman and De Jong while Daley Blind and Janmaat being deployed as wing-back did the job of falling back in case of an opposition attack to perfection in order to help their 3 centre-backs there by effectively turning the system into a 3-5-2 formation.
This theory has been totally ignored by both Danny Blind and Hiddink who reverted to the 4-3-3 or the 4-2-3-1 formation. The problem with those formations were that they left a whole lot of things to be handled by the defense with virtually no help from the midfield who were caught out of position in most of the cases. The faulty formation was revealed to devastation effect as Turkey scored in just seven minutes. With the lack of right player and the wrong formation the Dutch were never in a position to recover and hence the final outcome.
What needs to be done?
First and foremost, they will have to do away with their ageing super-stars. Huntelaar, Van Persie, De Jong, Robben, Sneijder won’t be there to win you matches in 2018. They need to bring in young blood more and yes surely there will be hiccups in the way as the new players will take their time to learn how to take the pressure of international matches but in the long run they will only help to carry on a legacy which is too big to die.
They do have quality players like Memphis Depay who is just 21 so definitely not all is that bad as it may seem right now. De Vrij is also a class defender and he is sure to grow more as he gets more experienced. Ibrahim Affelay is also a class act but his career never really took like the way it was predicted but he still is a better bet at the age of 29 and maybe given the right chances and the right position to play in he can still contribute a lot.
Daley Blind is also a good player who is now a more less a first choice under Van Gaal in Man U. The midfield also needs real midfielders rather than converted attackers and wingers and there comes in the young Jordy Clasie and Vurnon Anita. Anwar El Ghazi is also another player to watch out for.
Things are definitely not as per expectations right now and certainly both the talent spinning companies like Ajax or PSV which used to be churning out superb 18 year olds are also having difficulties but like said before also the Dutch do have a too large legacy to coming to an end so early.
They do have players like Depay, who definitely has the potential to be world class super stars to look up to. Yes, they may also suffer in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and worst still they may not be a part of that too but one thing for sure is that they need an influx of young blood to make things turn and they certainly do have the qualities to do so may be right now they are not of the caliber of Cryuff, Rijkard or off late stars like Robben or Van Persie but good player of mid and early 20s are there definitely to look forward.