Welcome back all to a new posting! In this article we are going to be digging into the return of a soccer power to national attention. That team is, if you couldn’t gather from the title, the Netherlands men’s national side. As I have a Dutch family background this post is definitely close to my heart! Let’s get into this!
This past summer, the 2018 World Cup was played in Russia. 32 teams competed to hoist the ultimate prize of the “FIFA World Cup Trophy”. (Catchy name right?) France came away as world champions, but for quite a few fans, this year’s tournament was not the same. That is because the Dutch failed to qualify for the competition, as did the United States (but that is for another time). It was the first time since 2002 that the Netherlands was not a participant in the World Cup.
This failure was a major blow for a country that had finished 2nd in 2010 and 3rd in 2014. To make matters worse, their World Cup blunder was just added misery for the Dutch and their fans, as they had failed to qualify for the 2016 European Championship as well. For them to fail to even qualify for the both tournaments was a sucker punch many did not see coming. So what went wrong for the Oranje? Let’s break it down.
What Went Wrong
The writing was on the wall for the Dutch in 2015. Manager Guus Hiddink stepped down in the midst of the European Championship qualifying process, leaving behind a struggling Holland side who finished 4th in their group. This meant that they had failed to qualify for the Euros for the first time since 1984. Unfortunately for the Flying Dutchmen and their fans, the pain wasn’t over. Holland failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup as they finished third in their group behind Sweden and eventual champions, France.
Two of the main reasons for the Dutch decline were an aging squad and managerial inconsistencies. For years, Holland was led by stars like Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Klass-Jan Huntelaar, and Robin van Persie. However, Father Time remains undefeated and he showed no mercy. This aging squad paired with numerous different managers led to the Dutch demise. When the team would start to slide, the old manager would either resign or be fired. The next manager would then step in to an absolute mess. Due to this pressure, he would turn to the old stars rather than gamble with young talent. This handcuffed the Netherlands because they weren’t giving their youngsters the chances they needed to develop.
The Return of the Flying Dutchmen
After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the Netherlands began to make strides to address the issues with their team. Ronald Koeman was brought in as manager and given a contract until 2022. With less pressure, Koeman has been able to give the younger, more inexperienced players chances to play for their country. The strategy has paid off as well. The next generation of Dutch talent has risen to the top to take the place of the stars of years past. Wonder-kids like Frenkie De Jong, Matthijs De Ligt and Justin Kluivert have made their mark on the footballing world. Alongside household names such as Memphis Depay, Virgil van Dijk, and Quincy Promes, the Oranje have begun to reestablish themselves as a national power. Look out for the Flying Dutchmen because they are back!