Euro 2016 starts this Friday in France, sadly the Dutch will not be there, Football Oranje takes a look back at the 1996 European championship campaign.

  • By Nicholas Koopman
  • Follow Nicholas on Twitter

davids euro 96The Dutch entered their Euro 96 campaign having exquisitely overcome the Republic of Ireland 2-0 in the qualification playoff. Eight of the squad had won the Champions League the previous season, having been in the Ajax squad that had defeated A.C. Milan. Guus Hiddink was in charge and consequently, expectations were high heading into the tournament that had now been expanded to sixteen teams. The Dutch kicked off their campaign at Villa Park on the 10th June against Scotland and in front of a largely hostile crowd.

Netherlands 0-0 Scotland: The Dutch enjoyed the majority of possession and the lion’s share of chances in the match but could not find a way past the dogged Scottish defence. The Dutch were without Danny Blind, who was suspended, and as a result were not at their fluent best. Both Dennis Bergkamp and Seedorf missed excellent chances and some admirable keeping from Andy Goram kept the score 0-0.

Having missed out on a chance to seize the group, following England’s draw with Switzerland, the Dutch went into the next match knowing a win was vital.

Switzerland 0-2 Netherlands: Despite an unconvincing and slow start to the match, again at Villa Park, the Dutch eventually managed to wrestle control with a late cameo. The Swiss had performed above expectations, so far in the competition, but couldn’t cope with the Dutch as they raised their game. Midway through the second half Jordi Cruyff opened the scoring and with eleven minutes left Dennis Bergkamp scored from a rebound to seal victory for the Oranje.

It was after this game that the squad started to implode with struggles and unrest over wages, tactics and even claims of racism. The infighting led to Davids being sent home after an outburst to Swiss media saying “the coach should not put his head in the ass of some players” having been dropped from the Switzerland game.

England 4 – 1 Netherlands: Danny Blind and co travelled to a packed Wembley desperately needing a win to dispel rumours of discontent. England produced their finest performance in years with goals from Shearer and Sheringham condemning the Dutch to a 4-1 defeat. In one of the worst nights in Dutch football, only a late goal from Patrick Kluivert, with twelve minutes left, secured second place in the group and a quarter final spot.

Looking to bounce back, the Netherlands took on the French in Liverpool in a big quarter final clash.

France 0-0 Netherlands (France win 5-4 on penalties): In a tense affair both teams played cautiously and only created two clear-cut chances in the first half. The match sparked into life once Seedorf was introduced but neither team could find the crucial opening, Cocu coming the closest with a deflected shot in the eighty-fourth minute. The match went to penalties after both teams were unable to find an elusive golden goal, with Seedorf the only one to miss a penalty to send the Dutch home.

The press and the public blamed the players for the exit after divisions left the squad worn-out in the game against the French. In spite of this Hiddink was able to rebuild and use this experience to have a fantastic World cup in France two years later with a semi-final finish.

Nicholas Koopman (93 Posts)