Dutch football fans usually decked in bright orange were wearing black on Wednesday after the Netherlands failed to qualify for a European Championship finals for the first time since 1984.
Dutch newspapers on Wednesday described Holland’s 3-2 home defeat against a 10-man Czech Republic as “the biggest underperformance in the history of Dutch football”.
The defeat saw Danny Blind’s side finish fourth in Euro 2016 qualifying Group A, as last year’s World Cup semi-finalists failed even to make the play-offs for a place at next summer’s expanded 24-team finals in France.
Words like “Shamed”, “Pathetic” and “Disappointment” headlined stories of the Dutch defeat as the sport played by more than two million fanatics in a country of 18 million slumped to its lowest ebb in three decades.
“Everything is broken within the Oranje, chaos reigns,” said daily tabloid Algemeen Dagblad, predicting it would take the Oranje until at least 2020 to recover and reach another major tournament.
“What a disappointment!” blasted popular tabloid De Telegraaf as it splashed a huge picture of Dutch captain Wesley Sneijder with his left-hand covering his face.
As the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) and head coach Blind scramble for answers, the team’s performance cast a long shadow over their preparations for the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, when they will be in a tough group that also includes France, Sweden and Bulgaria.
Blind was himself only appointed head coach in July in the wake of Guus Hiddink’s struggling efforts at the helm of a team who were runners-up at the 2010 World Cup and came third at the 2014 tournament.
He has overseen three defeats in four games but refused to fall on his sword after Tuesday night’s loss at the Amsterdam Arena.
“I failed to get things together therefore you can expect to catch flack,” Blind said after the match.
“I know I didn’t take over at the best of times. But I said ‘yes’ to the job. Therefore I’m continuing,” Blind told Dutch reporters.
He said he was taking time to “analyse what had gone wrong, the future and what the team should look like,” raising the possibility of looking for new blood to take over the reigns from long-time stalwarts such as Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
By the time the 2018 World Cup comes along Sneijder will be 34, while Robben, Van Persie and Huntelaar will be 35.
For instance, the Algemeen Dagblad said that “in his heart, Van Persie wants to continue, but his body just don’t want to cooperate any longer.”
“A new team must now for sure be built,” the newspaper suggested.