AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands, just over a year after finishing third at the World Cup, have resigned themselves to battling for the third place in their Euro 2016 qualifying group and the prospect of playoffs after a horror debut for new coach Danny Blind. Thursday’s 1-0 home loss to Iceland left the Dutch third in their group standings and facing a key match against Turkey, who are only one point behind them, on Sunday.
“The reality is now we have to go for the third place. That’s the option we have left,” said Blind, although mathematically the Dutch could yet win Group A but only if leaders Iceland and the second placed Czech Republic implode in their last three qualifiers. The top two qualify automatically for the finals in France next year while all but the best third placed finisher proceed to play-offs in November.
“This was certainly not the scenario that I had in mind for my first game as coach. The team showed a lot of confidence but I knew it could be a difficult game,” said Blind, whose predecessor Guus Hiddink resigned under the weight of criticism for the Dutch’s poor result in the campaign.
Blind had scathing words for both defenders Bruno Martins Indi, sent off just past the half-hour mark, and Gregory van der Wiel, who gave away a penalty early in the second half.
It all went wrong for the Dutch when new captain Arjen Robben went off injured in the 27th minute followed six minutes later by Martins Indi’s exit.
“It was unbelievably unprofessional, something to the detriment of the whole team. That was the turning point of the game,” said Blind of the 33rd minute sending off of his central defender for lashing out at an opponent.
That meant a tactical switch with target man Klaas-Jan Huntelaar replaced, before half-time, by a defender in a move jeered by supporters.
“I’m not thrashing myself but I will look at the choices I made. But I feel we prepared well,” said Blind.
The decision against Van der Wiel seemed harsh but Blind added: “In football you have to stay on your feet in those situations and tackle correctly.”
“We now face climbing a mountain. I have to try and stimulate the team and we need to get some points,” said the new coach.
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty