Despite Netherlands losing their opening European Championship qualifier, the journey to the 2016 tournament in France has been made easier by UEFA’s new rules.

  • By Ibrahim Ayyub
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oraczechThe second Guus Hiddink era kicked off last month with disappointing back to back defeats for the Netherlands. Sure, some players were missing because of injuries and the loss to Italy was a friendly that was over after three minutes following the sending off of Martins Indi. Their subsequent defeat to the Czech Republic in their first 2016 UEFA European Championship group stage match though, was embarrassing thanks to some sloppy defending and uncharismatic football from the Oranje. However, this loss did not carry the weight that the Oranje have an uphill challenge ahead of them and that’s due in large to UEFA implementing new qualifying rules which eliminated the suspense in these qualifiers.

Of course, any loss by Holland is never acceptable, especially in qualifying group stages for the UEFA European Championship. In the past, a loss would cause some concern since the last thing any fan wants is to see their team fail to finish as group leader and automatically qualify and end up in a playoff. Well, good news Oranje fans. Those days are over. Thanks to Michel Platini and UEFA for changing the rules in ensuring that the top two teams qualify for Euro 2016 automatically along with the third place team getting a shot at a playoff spot. Sadly, a change in the rules of allowing 24 nations in Euro 2016 killed the suspense of these qualifiers.

So basically, you have a better chance at qualifying than missing out on Euro 2016. So have no fear, Holland would need to fall into a total coma to make qualifying impossible. Holland’s next two opponents are Kazakhstan and Iceland. Hiddink and his players will have a chance to redeem themselves for last month’s showing. The one benefit of this easy qualification process is that perhaps this will allow Hiddink to bleed in the younger players and give them significant playing minutes. This would ultimately shed some light on which players got what it takes to play for the national team in two years’ time in France.

As much as I feel comfortable in knowing these guys still have a shot at qualifying, even if they finish third, I’d prefer if they right the ship and finish as group leaders. The first step towards redemption starts Friday against Kazakhstan. One can only hope that the Oranje have learned from last month’s mistakes and start living up to expectations.

Ibrahim Ayyub (24 Posts)