Saturday’s pathetic display against Bulgaria has sunk Netherlands national team to a new low and made the chances of missing another major tournament a real possibility. The performance was another indication that the KNVB made a massive error in handing Danny Blind the reigns. 

  • By Michael Bell
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Last night in the basement of the Vasil Levski Stadium, a visibly defeated Danny Blind sat in front of the press, “I have to look in the mirror” stated the coach that had just watched his side lose comfortably to a horribly average Bulgaria side.

The defeat brought widespread shock from fans and the press, but it falls in line to what Netherlands have become since Blind took charge during the failed European Championship campaign. The coach has only led the national team to competitive wins over Kazakhstan, Luxembourg and Belarus. Second tier nations such as Bulgaria, Iceland, Turkey and the Czech Republic now seem too strong for an Oranje side that can no longer claim to be a part of the European elite.

Bad luck can be used as an excuse for Blind, with Bas Dost having a match-winner against Sweden wrongly disallowed, while nine times out of ten Maarten Stekelenburg saves that shot from Paul Pogba and Netherlands don’t lose against France. Injuries have also played a part, with star man Arjen Robben missing more matches than he’s played, while Virgil van Dijk, Stefan de Vrij and Jeffrey Bruma all missed the defeat in Sofia.

However, most nations would kill to have the quality that Netherlands have at their disposal even if a few are missing, and Blind has shown that he has absolutely no clue when it comes to team selection or tactics.

The decision to start Matthijs de Ligt against Bulgaria was baffling considering his lack of game time for Ajax and the fact he had just made a big error in their draw against Excelsior just days before. Wesley Hoedt has been a top performer in Serie A this season and should have started, while Joel Veltman, Nick Viergever and even Daley Blind would have made much more sense instead of picking an inexperienced 17-year-old, who’s confidence must now be in tatters. Why was de Ligt even selected for the squad? Nathan Ake, and Jan-Arie van der Heijden would have warranted a call-up and added more big game experience.

Blinds midfield provided no cover, fight or creativity and his substitutions just left you scratching your head. Why bring off De Ligt when the damage was clearly already done? Why take off the only pace in the team (Promes) and bring on a second lanky and slow striker (De jong), which basically sealed the victory for Bulgaria with fifteen minutes to go? Why was a clearly confident Memphis Depay, who inspired the win over Luxembourg last time out left on the bench?

The most damning aspect of Blind’s tenure, however, is that Netherlands have become so predictable and boring to watch. The Oranje have always been among the entertainers in international football but the days of Cruyff, Bergkamp, Van Basten and even van der Vaart and Van Persie look long gone and what’s left is boring sideways passes to nowhere and aimless long balls. The players even look frustrated and confused on the pitch, with most a shadow of those we see week in week out for their clubs. Kevin Strootman and Georginio Wijnaldum are excellent for Roma and Liverpool, but look clueless in Oranje, because Blind plays them out of position.

Luckily for Netherlands, though, all is not lost. We are only halfway through the qualifying campaign and three points separates Sweden in second and Netherlands in fourth. Wins in four of the five remaining matches should be enough to nick second and a possible playoff spot, but the KNVB must do one thing, sack Danny Blind now.

They can not risk any more of these lifeless performances and need to look for new man in charge to bring back some confidence and passion. A meeting is scheduled on Sunday between the KNVB and Blind which will hopefully lead to the coach’s sacking. If not, then Netherlands can look forward to a summer in 2018 without Oranje at the World Cup.

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