Danny Blind begins his stint as Netherlands boss with a crucial European Championships qualifier against Iceland on Thursday evening at the Amsterdam Arena.

blind nedNot since 1984 have Netherlands failed to qualify for a European Championships. That year the tournament was held in France, and the Dutch squad that failed to qualify consisted of the failing older generation of the 70’s, and the young talents that would eventually prove good enough to lead the nation to glory four years later.

The current Netherlands squad shares a lot of similarity’s to the team from the early eighties. Older players such as Wesley Snejder, Robin van Persie, Nigel de Jong, and Klaas jan Huntelaar, who led Netherlands to the latter stages of the World Cup twice, look past their prime, while question marks hang over the next generation of talents that include Memphis Depay, Terence Kongolo and Davy Klaassen.

Now to avoid the fate of Kees Rijver’s side, and reach the tournament which once again takes place in France, Netherlands need to turn their troubling campaign around in the final four games, starting with Iceland (who was an opponent during the 1984 qualifiers) on Thursday in Amsterdam.

The Oranje go into the game under new leadership after Danny Blind stepped up from his role as assistant coach to replace Guus Hiddink, who quit in June. Armed with Ruud van Nistelrooy and Marco van Basten as his assistants, Blind, who is in first major role as a head coach, must find the correct winning formula for the Netherlands and banish the memories of the 2-0 defeat in Iceland last October.

Blind’s first act as boss was to replace Robin van Persie as captain, with Arjen Robben taking over the armband, and it seems the Netherlands record goalscorer will also be dropped for the game against Iceland, with Klaas jan Huntelaar given the nod for the number nine position.

Vurnan Anita was a surprise call-up after a five year absence from the national team, and the Newcastle star is set to start in midfield as Daley Blind fills in at left back.

Possible Netherlands line-up: Cillessen, Van der Wiel, Blind, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Anita, Sneijder, Klaassen, Robben, Memphis, Huntelaar

Iceland have been terrific in the qualifying campaign so far and head to the Amsterdam Arena top of group A, with only one defeat so far. Coached by Heimer Hallgrimsson and Lars Lagerback Iceland are a well organised side that are hard to break down and dangerous in attack with former Ajax forwards Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and ex-Heerenveen hit-man Alfred Finnbogasson their two main strikers.

Possible Iceland line-up: Halldorsson, Saevarsson, Skulason, Arnason, Sigurosson, Gunnarsson, Bjarnson, Gislason, Sigurdsson, Gudmundsson, Sigthorsson

Previous Meetings: Prior to last October’s 2-0 defeat, Netherlands were unbeaten against Iceland in eight previous meetings, including eight wins and one solitary draw.

What the coach says: Blind, “We have to win and so hopefully that means scoring early in the game, but it can also be successful at a later stage. We need to do that by playing at a high tempo. We have to play to break the organization of Iceland. They play very disciplined and have many players who play in good European clubs. Guys who know how it works.

Prediction:To guarantee their place in the European Championships next year, Netherlands need to realistically win three of their last four games, and that needs to start with the tie against Iceland. Danny Blind has promised to go on the attack, and with the pace and trickery of Memphis and Robben on the wings, Netherlands should have too much for Iceland’s defence. A comfortable victory would be the perfect start for Blind and get the campaign back on the right path heading into Sunday’s tie with Turkey.

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