Humiliated Holland fail to qualify for Euro 2016
A 3-2 defeat to Turkey means that the Netherlands go from World Cup semi-finalists to European also rans in two years
Holland have failed to qualify for the 2016 European Championships. A 3-2 defeat at home to the Czech Republic, coupled with Turkey's 1-0 win over Iceland, means that the nation that finished third at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will miss out altogether on next summer's tournament.
It's an astonishing outcome for one of Europe's powerhouses, who were crowned European champions in 1988 and were bronze medallists in 1992, 2000 and 2004. The last time the Dutch were absent from the European Championships was 1984.
To make matters worse, Euro 2016, with its expanded format featuring 24 teams rather than the usual 16, was regarded as possibly the easiest major tournament to qualify for in recent memory. The Netherlands would also have felt confident after the qualifying draw, which put them in the same group as Iceland and Turkey, both ranked outside the world's top 40 at the time, and the Czech Republic, then ranked 28th. In the event the Dutch finished below all three.
In the immediate aftermath of the result coach Danny Blind - who replaced Guus Hiddink in July - was asked about his future. "I'm going to carry on with my work because I'm under contract until 2018 and I believe in this team," said Blind, who has lost three of his four matches in charge. "I haven't achieved my goal. The aim was to qualify automatically or via the play-offs and I haven't done that."
Going into last night's match the headlines had focused on the training ground bust-up between Manchester United forward Memphis Depay and Robin van Persie. Blind, in admitting the spat, said it was "over" and the squad had moved on, but judging from their defeat to the Czech Republic that assessment was questionable.
Pavel Kaderabek and Josef Sural put the Czech Republic 2-0 up in the first-half before Van Persie scored a bizarre own-goal, the former Arsenal striker heading into his own-net on 66 minutes. The howler seemed to inspire the Dutch and they scored twice in quick succession through Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Van Persie to briefly raise the hopes of their fans, but then news came through of Selcuk Inan's last-minute goal for Turkey against Iceland.
That win means the Turks qualify for Euro 16 as the highest ranked third-placed team out of the nine qualifying groups. Ukraine and Norway also finished third in their groups and had more points than Turkey, but points won against bottom-placed teams in the groups don't count - thereby earning Turkey their passage to France next summer.
"As a country we really needed this win to feel happy, even for a few hours maybe," said Turkey coach Fatih Terim. "We are so happy to have offered some happiness to our people."
Holland horror as Dutch face Euro 2016 humiliation
England's impressive record of ten wins from ten matches in qualifying for Euro 2016 has failed to generate much excitement among football fans – indeed many have suggested the achievement counts for little given the weakness of their opponents in Group E.
But qualification for a major tournament is rarely straightforward, as World Cup semi-finalists the Netherlands are discovering.
After finishing third in Brazil, the Dutch are in danger of missing out on Euro 2016 altogether and must pray other results go their way as they take on the Czech Republic on Tuesday night.
The best that Danny Blind's men can hope for is a play-off berth, and they will only achieve that if they win their game and Turkey, who are third in the group, lose to group leaders Iceland in Turkey.
"That is what it has come down to for the proud Dutch nation," says Adam Shergold for Mail Online. "This footballing powerhouse – the nation of Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens, Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard – relying on favours from an Iceland team that until this Euro 2016 qualifying campaign had been regarded as something of a minnow."
But the Dutch have brought it upon themselves, says Shergold. "It would be a travesty if Holland did get a miraculous reprieve courtesy of already-qualified Iceland and made it into next month's play-off round. They have been beaten home and away by Iceland, lost 3-0 in Turkey, 2-1 in the Czech Republic and only scraped a home draw with the Turks courtesy of a last-minute equaliser."
To rub salt into the wound the qualification campaign appears to be falling apart on the training ground after Blind confirmed a bust-up involving Memphis Depay and Robin van Persie.
It now looks as though the nation's efforts to make it to France could end not just in "bitter disappointment" but also "acrimony", says The Times.
Things have fallen apart since Brazil 2014, when Guus Hiddink replaced Louis van Gaal and changed the formation to 4-3-3. "That, however, failed to bring positive results, leading to Hiddink losing his job," says the BBC.
Time has also taken its toll. "The squad remains broadly the same as the one Van Gaal led at the World Cup, though the influence of key attacking trio Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder has been affected by age, form and injury."
How Holland can still qualify:
The Dutch lie fourth in their group, two points behind Turkey in third.
If the Netherlands beat the Czech Republic (who have already qualified in second place) and Turkey lose at home to group winners Iceland they will finish above the Turks.
If Turkey draw and Holland win then the Turks come third thanks to their superior head-to-head record.