The international break is over and as expected Netherlands will not be going to the World Cup next summer. Michael Bell picks seven talking points surrounding the national team after the games against Belarus and Sweden.

Robben is going to be impossible to replace

The first half against Sweden was the Arjen Robben show on Tuesday and he proved just how impossible the task will be for Netherlands to find his replacement.

For me, Robben stands above Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie and Rafael van der Vaart, as the top Dutch star of his generation, and his influence to the national team since his debut in 2003 can’t be understated. He was the reason Netherlands reached the World Cup semi-finals two years ago, and he has been the national team’s one-man show since.

Robben is still genuinely world class and it’s going to be more than a few years until we see someone with his ability pull on the Oranje jersey.

Advocaat is not the man to take Netherlands forward

After the win over Sweden, Dick Advocaat hinted that he was open to continuing as Netherlands boss, but for me the KNVB have to say goodbye to the little general.

To be fair on Advocaat, he stepped into a difficult position when he replaced Danny Blind, and he hasn’t done too much wrong with only of the defeats coming under his leadership. However, Advocaat proved once again against Sweden that he is not an adventurous coach or one that will deviate from his prefered way of playing, and that is what Netherlands need at the moment.

The KNVB have to find a coach willing to ditch the 4-3-3 formation and bring some fresh ideas and discipline back, like Louis van Gaal did. Utrecht’s Erik ten Hag would be my dream candidate, but he is unlikely at the moment, and that leaves me wondering if Oranje should look abroad.

Frank de Boer is available at the moment but also not the answer, while Ronald Koeman could be an option if his Everton side continues to disappoint and he gets the sack.

Blind should be deployed in midfield

Netherlands have been looking for a controlling midfielder to sit in front of the defence all campaign, with Kevin Strootman failing miserably. However, the win over Sweden provided the answer with Daley Blind putting in a great performance as a number six and going forward he needs to be deployed in the middle instead of at left back.

One of the main criticism’s of this Dutch team is they always look for the sideways pass, but Blind was positive on Tuesday, always looking to move the ball forward, and he has a range of passing that no other Dutch midfielder, expect Sneijder possesses at the moment.

Moving Blind out of the left-back slot wouldn’t impact the defence, with Patrick van Aanholt, Jetro Willems, Ridgeciano Haps and Terence Kongolo all more than capable of replacing him in the position.

Who will now lead Oranje going forward?

Robben has hung up his Oranje boots and Wesley Sneijder won’t be too far behind, so who is going to take over the role as leader of the national team? Kevin Strootman, Georginio Wijnaldum and Davy Klaassen have all captained their club at one point, but their performances in Oranje have left a lot to be desired. Virgil van Dijk and Stefan de Vrij are the other experienced heads in the team, but for me, the best option may be Blind.

I think the Manchester United star is going to be a big player for the national team over the next few years and can definitely handle the responsibility of taking the armband from Robben.

The striker position is a huge issue

I like Vincent Janssen and think he works very hard for the national team, but watching him against Sweden was difficult. It is clear that his confidence at the moment is completely shot and he shouldn’t have been the man starting up front. Bas Dost didn’t do much better in the second half, though, and the forward position is going to be a big issue heading into the qualifiers for Euro 2020.

If Dost and Janssen aren’t the answer then what is left? The ageing Robin van Persie or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Jurgen Locadia or a totally out of form Luuk de Jong? It is a depressing situation for a nation which has always been so blessed with attacking talent over the years. How I long for the days when Roy Makaay, Pierre van Hooijdonk, and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink couldn’t get a game because of Patrick Kluivert, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Dennis Bergkamp.

Luckily there are youth talents coming through such as Daishawn Redan, Kaj Sierhuis, Joel Piroe and Sam Lammers, but none of them are ready to lead the line yet. In the meantime, one answer could be to play without a recognised centre forward and go for pace. Quincy Promes scores goals for fun in Russia and sometimes gets lost out on the wing for Oranje. Moving him inside might provide some needed spark in the Dutch attack. He would probably have a field day with Daley Blind’s balls over the top.

Time to inject youth and personality

The most recent golden generation is gone, and its time to start building a team that will be ready to make a mark at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

If players such as Georginio Wijnaldum, Davy Klaassen and Kevin Strootman aren’t performing now then are they really going to be much better over the next few years? Probably not so it’s time to start injecting some youth, pace and much-needed personality to the team.

The likes of Justin Kluivert, Frenkie de Jong, Steven Bergwijn, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Donny van de Beek are the nations biggest hope going forward, so why not start moulding the team around them. Sneijder, Robben, Van Persie and Van der Vaart were all regulars when they were in their late teens, early twenties, and its time to give the new golden generation their chance.

We have already missed two tournaments in a row, so what is there to lose by putting our faith in youth?

Netherlands were unlucky 

When I look back on the campaign it’s easy to criticise Netherlands for some of their performances, and rightly so, but at times luck was just not on Oranje’s side.

The qualifying campaign should have got off to what would have been a crucial win in Sweden, but Bas Dost’s late goal was wrongly ruled out. That goal stands and Netherlands are in the playoffs.

Also worth noting that nine times out of ten, Maarten Stekelenburg would have saved Paul Pogba’s winning goal in the 1-0 loss to France, while Luxembourg’s 8-0 loss to Sweden was a total freak result. The less said about Hugo Lloris late mistake which gifted Sweden a last-minute winner against France, the better as well.

There are no excuses to be made, but sometimes, in groups with such fine margins, luck plays a major role and sadly Netherlands didn’t get much.

Also, the fact that goal difference still plays such a key role in this day and age is also a joke, and FIFA need to look at making head to head the tie-breaker between teams with the same points.

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