Can the Dutch national team still qualify for the World Cup in Russia?

It all started after the Dutch team’s third place finish in Brazil. Summer 2014, no problem. The Netherlands was playing well, had almost secured a final spot at the expense of Argentina but squandered it in the penalty shootout. The ‘small final’ was easily won 0-3. When Louis van Gaal quit on 31-7-2014 Guus Hiddink took over one day later. The marriage between the KNVB and Hiddink lasted almost a year.

Hiddink and Blind

Due to a series of poor qualification matches (EK 2016) under Hiddink, Guus was fired on 1-7-2015. Danny Blind took over from him. Under Blind, the Dutch selection completed the qualification for the 2016 European Championship. Unfortunately, Orange had won too little to be allowed to participate. At the time, the Netherlands was in the pool with the Czech Republic, Iceland, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Latvia. The Dutch finished 4th in the group with four wins, five losses and one draw.

Danny Blind national coach

World Cup Qualification

One summer without the Dutch at the European Championships was not so bad. However, it was a hectic situation at the KNVB. Full of fresh courage, the KNVB went for the qualification of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The Netherlands had a reasonable draw on paper; France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg. September 6, 2016 at the Friends Arena, the Netherlands played their first qualifying match against Sweden. The first three points seemed to be in when Bas Dost fired in the 1-2 in the final minutes. However, Daniele Orsato thought otherwise. He whistled the Netherlands back and disallowed the goal unfairly. A disappointment, but the Netherlands showed very eager play and that promised well for the qualification series.

The second soccer match (against Moldova) was easily and comfortably won 4-1. In good spirits the Netherlands continued to train for the game 3 days later against France. By a great flick of Pogba it remained 0-1 and the Netherlands lost their first game. Yet coach Danny Blind remained positive, he saw progress and good play within the group. The fourth game was played in Luxembourg. It was easily won 1-3. Robben and Depay played a key role in this match. The tension was high as the Netherlands had already lost quite a few unnecessary points.

Criticism on Blind

There was much criticism of coach Danny Blind who, in the eyes of the supporters, had too many Ajax players and left the stars like van Persie and Huntelaar at home. March 25 would be an important night for the position of Blind. The Netherlands could then still easily reach the World Cup by depriving opponent Bulgaria of 3 points and taking the third spot. However, the Netherlands was already 2-0 behind after 20 minutes and the evening became a fiasco. Two days after this drama, Danny Blind was fired.

The search for a new coach

Danny Blind was fired and the soap opera continued. Since the next wk-qualification match was not until 9 June, the KNVB had some time. However, there were practice matches to be played and therefore Fred Grim (assistant coach under Blind) took over for a while. Names like Frank de Boer, Louis van Gaal, Ronald Koeman and Henk ten Cate circulated. The latter made the statement in the Telegraaf at the end of April that he would be appointed national coach.

Dick Advocaat, the new national coach
The KNVB distanced itself from this and knew nothing about it. The search went on. During a presentation, Hans van Breukelen (technical director of the KNVB) said that we had to think in pairs. Eventually the eye of the KNVB fell on Ruud Gullit and Dick Advocaat. Fred Grim still remains assistant national coach. On June 4 (five days before Netherlands – Luxembourg) this was announced.

Netherlands – Luxembourg, under the new national coach

The first game under the new national coach is played without the new national coach. Dick Advocaat had to play a cup match with his club Fenerbahçe and therefore could not be present in the Kuip where the Netherlands played a very important match. Perhaps the most important match in the entire WC qualification so far. Luxembourg, with its 145th Fifa ranking, is not exactly a strong opponent. The Netherlands had to win.

In a reasonably full Kuip it had to happen. The week before, friendly matches were already played. Morocco and Ivory Coast were defeated. Morocco was defeated 1-2 and Ivory Coast had to leave the field with a 5-0 defeat. Luxembourg was also defeated 5-0. Robben, Sneijder, Wijnaldum, Promes and Janssen (penalty) ensured this result. Afterwards Fred Grim, who temporarily took over as national coach, said that he had kept in touch with Dick Advocaat a lot, also during the practice matches.

The coming months

There are still four matches to be played. The Netherlands is no longer in control, but still has a chance to go through. First of all, the Netherlands has to win everything. This will be very difficult if we look at the opponents. The next game is on August 31. Then the Orange Lions play in Stade de France against France. 4 days later, the second game is against Bulgaria in the Johan Cruijff ArenA. On October 7, the second to last game will be played in Borisov Arena in Belarus. The last game might be the all-deciding one as Sweden will visit the ArenA then.

Predictions

Personally I think we will make it in the nick of time or not. Maybe we won’t make it or we’ll make it on goal difference, that’s how exciting it could get. And then the match against Sweden will be one of life or death for both countries. France and Sweden are difficult opponents. Against Bulgaria and Belarus they have to win by a large margin. Against France, a draw might be possible if France has an off-day and the Netherlands play well.

Against Sweden there is also something to be gained. In short, it is still possible, but the Netherlands must now win everything and hope that Sweden or France sloppy spilling points. France and Sweden are now both on 13 points, the Netherlands on 10, so two draws or a loss may be enough for the Netherlands.