Holland's Young Ones and Young Once deserve to bow out
With an ageing attack and inept successors, Holland deserve to miss out on Finals
(Klaas-Jan Huntelaar 70, Robin van Persie 83)
CZECH REPUBLIC 3
(Pavel Kaderabek 24, Josef Sural 35, Robin van Persie 66-og)
As Holland's battle-weary players again stood disconsolate on a floodlit pitch, far more than the setting of the Amsterdam Arena separated their latest exit from the heartache of Sao Paulo.
Those scenes in the Arena Corinthians seem increasingly distant than just 15 months ago.
In the 458 days since they finished third at the World Cup, the orange boom has turned to bust; replaced by hopelessness and an approach that would make Rinus Michels turn in his grave.
Coach Danny Blind has vowed to fight on - but even propped up by Marco van Basten and Ruud van Nistelrooy, two bastions of their country's rich footballing heritage, the wilderness years that preceded Holland's 1988 European Championship triumph appear destined to be repeated.
Van Nistelrooy will, more than most, feel the pang of the latest ignominy; he was among a golden generation of players when Louis van Gaal failed to guide his country to the 2002 World Cup - a feat since redeemed by the 64-year-old's exploits in Brazil last year.
A penny for the Manchester United manager's thoughts as an under-strength Czech Republic were allowed to run amok over the Dutch defence.
Few tears will be shed at their absence in France next summer; a tournament which will feature the likes of Northern Ireland and Albania.
Iceland will be joining them, at the expense of the side that banked on them securing an unlikely victory over Turkey for a faint shot at redemption.
It would have simply added insult to ineptitude; a recurring theme throughout Holland's qualifying campaign.
An over-reliance on players increasingly past their best finally also came home to roost.
At the peak of their powers, Robin van Persie, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Wesley Sneijder's respective spots in the starting line-up would never have been questioned.
Now an ageing triumvirate, their continued place at the fulcrum of their country's attack must be tackled at the inquest into the qualification shortfall.
Two led the line from the offset while van Persie entered the fold in place of a 19-year-old left back Jairo Riedewald.
Had injury not sidelined Arjen Robben, it was not inconceivable that he, too, would have featured.
That van Persie and Huntelaar scored conciliatory goals was hardly vindication for the beleaguered Blind, particularly with the former United and Arsenal striker heading the ball into his own net first before atoning at the other end, while Sneijder's performance was largely forgettable.
Van Persie's fall from grace has been poetically aligned with that of his homeland.
Once considered to be among the game's elite, he is now a mere husk of his former self; marginalised at Fenerbahce as much as he was during his final 12 months at Old Trafford.
Legitimate successors to the 32-year-old and his fellow old guard are conspicuous by their absence.
Memphis Depay was largely ineffectual while Bas Dost's introduction resulted in a laboured directness wholly unbecoming of Holland's traditional footballing ethos.
After their 5-1 demolition of Spain in Brazil last year was hailed as the death of tiki-taka, the current evidence suggests reports of the subsequent demise of total football were not greatly exaggerated.
The nation which gifted Johan Cruyff, van Basten and Ruud Gullit to the world has embraced devolution, rather than innovation, and sleep-walked into the international abyss.
“The stats of Memphis do not weigh up against his attitude off the pitch. He hasn’t been the player that Oranje needed, especially when (Arjen) Robben was unavailable.”
— Former Holland striker Pierre van Hooijdonk on Memphis Depay
“I’m not sure if this is the end of a generation. I think these guys still have enough quality.
— Holland striker Klass-Jan Huntelaar on the future of veterans such as himself (32 years old), Wesley Sneijder (31) and Robin van Persie (32)
“I’m not one to run away from difficult situations... We will have to bite, for almost a year, on a very sour apple and we must all go through it — the players, the fans, the media, everyone.”
— Holland striker Robin van Persie
No blame for blind
Holland midfielder Wesley Sneijder admitted that they had been justifiably punished after failing to reach the European Championship for the first time since 1984.
Danny Blind's men lost 3-2 at home to a 10-man Czech Republic in their final Group A qualifier yesterday morning (Singapore time) to miss out on Euro 2016.
The Oranje had to win and hope Turkey lost at home to Iceland to sneak into third place in Group A and book a slot in next month's play-offs.
FAITH IN BLIND: The Dutch FA has backed coach Danny Blind (above) to rebuild with a young squad.
However, the Oranje were consigned to fourth spot behind the Turks, who won 1-0 to secure a place at the Finals in France as the best third-placed team.
"I am empty inside - both physically and mentally," Sneijder said after the match.
"If you know you have to win this game, you cannot just give it away with these types of errors.
"There's a lot wrong. We know Czech Republic are a good team, but you have to keep things compact and we were disappointing.
"I think we had a fantastic opening, but we made many mistakes, for which we were punished. Anyway, there is little we can do now. It's over."
A defiant Blind insisted that he will not quit.
"I have no intention to step down. 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 took charge only in July, after being promoted from assistant coach following the surprise resignation of Guus Hiddink, who had succeeded Louis van Gaal at the helm after the World Cup last year.
"Am I the one to blame? I now have to analyse that. The results weren't good. I won only one match (out of four since taking over).
"But we have to look towards the future now. We have to look forward and qualify for Russia 2018. That is our next goal."
The 54-year-old has received backing from the Dutch Football Association to carry on his role as head coach.
"Blind will keep going as coach," KNVB director Bert van Oostveen said. "We, as the KNVB, take responsibility for this and that means that Blind will be allowed to build for the future.
"We started with a fairly young team and the national coach must keep going to assist that process."
Former Holland midfielder George Boateng said that the KNVB made an error in not appointing Southampton manager Ronald Koeman as van Gaal's successor.
Boateng told Sky Sports News HQ: "We have good players and the squad are 80 per cent of the players who performed at the World Cup, where we did so well.
"I said before - the Dutch FA made an error by appointing Guus Hiddink to replace Louis van Gaal.
"That is not to say Guus is a bad manager, he is a fantastic manager, a father figure when it comes to the national team.
"However, looking back, I feel his time was up and Ronald Koeman was the perfect candidate to take the job. Southampton have excelled fantastically under Koeman and he would have been the right man for the job."
- Wire Services.
Other surprise exits
(1974, 1978 and 1994 World Cup, Euro 2008)
Sir Alf Ramsey, England's 1966 World Cup mastermind, could not inspire the team to the 1974 Finals in West Germany as they failed to secure the win over Poland at Wembley that they needed.
They missed out again for the 1978 tournament in Argentina and, after reaching the semi-finals in 1990, failed to reach USA 94 under Graham Taylor, with a controversial defeat by Holland.
Steve McClaren was sacked after failing to take England to Euro 2008, and was labelled "The Wally with the Brolly" after being pictured holding an umbrella during the critical defeat by Croatia.
(1986 and 2002 World Cup)
This is not the first time the Oranje have blown it. A team containing star names like Ruud van Nistelrooy, Edgar Davids and Jaap Stam finished third in their group behind Portugal and the Republic of Ireland. They also failed to reach the 1986 World Cup Finals in Mexico.
(1994 World Cup)
Needing just a point to qualify, a strong France side boasting stars such as Jean-Pierre Papin, Didier Deschamps and Eric Cantona lost at home to Israel and Bulgaria, going down to injury-time goals on each occasion, to miss out on a place in USA 94.
(1998 World Cup)
Despite having a "golden generation" of players like Rui Costa, Fernando Couto and Luis Figo, who won the 1989 and 1991 Fifa Youth Championships, Portugal failed to get to the Finals in France.
It was the third Finals in a row they had missed out on.
- PA Sport.
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now