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Netherlands: What's happened to l'Oranje?

Monday 4th September 2017
After last Thursday, it's fair to say the fortunes of these historically great footballing nations have turned. France's embarrassment of riches in every position is in full view now while the Oranje vine looks to be running dry. But it wasn't like always this. The Dutch team has been a factory where some of the most graceful players in history have been moulded and developed. 

Ajax has one of the best academies in Europe and a roster of academy products no other club in the world can truly rival (well, apart from Monaco now). The Ere Divisie has been the breeding ground for many years, developing some of the best players we've seen in the 21st century. They include Luis Suarez, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld just to name a few.

Ajax has one of the best academies in Europe and a roster of academy products no other club in the world can truly rival (well, apart from Monaco now). The Ere Divisie has been the breeding ground for many years, developing some of the best players we've seen in the 21st century. They include Luis Suarez, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld just to name a few.

Nine years on, the Dutch look like they're in freefall and hit the trough of finishing fourth in a group containing Iceland, Turkey and the Czech Republic. Now, a World Cup looks possible but not as easy as it used to be. With the embarrassment of riches they actually have, how has this happened?

The tale of two nations



It was June 2008, when we thought the French were in decline. They had been thrashed by a slick Dutch side 4-1 and looked well out of their depth. Within the week, we were eulogizing about the end of an era with the final of their "golden generation" retiring in Makelele and Thuram (Vieira didn't play at the tournament but this was the final squad he was a part of). Two years later, Irish fans were still reeling from Thierry's handball while we were all yelling "Sacre Bleu". Only the French squad could stage a revolt against their own manager Raymond Domenech, leaving the entire football governing body in crisis.

Meanwhile, after Euro 2008, Holland looked imperious en route to qualification and up to the World Cup final. Suddenly, Bert Van Meerwijk's side showed that the Dutch way of "Total Football" had been eradicated. That final saw the most anti-football display we've ever seen on such an occasion. To see a karate kick not result in a red card was unfathomable, yet Nigel De Jong played until he was substituted in extra-time. Ultimately, for both sides, it's been nearly a decade of disappointment. This was particularly exemplified by France's 2016 home tournament ending with a final defeat to a surprise Portugal.

Fast forward to 2017



Not only did the Netherlands fail to qualify for Euro 2016, they are in danger of not even reaching next summer's World Cup. This is after the 2014 World Cup where they thrashed the no.1 ranked side 5-1 in their opening game. The Dutch then went on to be one of four sides who finished unbeaten in 90 minutes across the competition.

Last Thursday, they were soundly thrashed by a rampant, resurgent French national side. A margin of four goals based on the balance of play seemingly flattered the Dutch. Yes, the sending off of Kevin Strootman was a contributing factor to the score line, but it did not hide the gulf in class between the two sides. In form like this and with the players Les Bleus ave, they will take some stopping in Russia. Meanwhile, the Dutch have the same problem as England: no identity and heavy reliance on an select few. Now, with Robben and Van Persie nearing retirement, where is the next generation?

Consistently inconsistent



That's seen across the tournament history for the Dutch, that's seen in their qualification. The reason is poor squad selection (similar to England). Too much tinkering over the last year has certainly destabilized the national setup.

Their centre back pairing ought to be Southampton's Virgil Van Dijk and Lazio's Stefan De Vrij. This could be arguably one of the top centre-back partnerships in the world. A midfield trio of Strootman, Clasie and Wijnaldum oozes quality, stability and mobility (then bringing on Sneijder in the second half) extra creativity. It makes little sense as to how they have struggled since Van Gaal's heroics in Brazil.

They have been perennial underachievers but despite the misery of the past three years, there could be light at the end of the tunnel.

Advocaat is back, will they fare any better?



Well, the phrase is "third time lucky". Will Advocaat finally make it to a tournament final? Will the Netherlands finally win it? They need to qualify first, which is still in their own hands thanks to a victory against Bulgaria. The Dutch need maximum points to secure a playoff spot at the very least.
Tyrone Chambers

I know most people either love them or hate them but I a massive fan of Manchester United. I'm not afraid to speak the truth. Writing it as it is, bold enough to say it in the way no manager or player could say in public. I write about all things football but I love music as well, both listening and playing, keen drummer.


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