By Toby Prince
The Netherlands have failed to reach a major tournament for the first time since 2002 after slumping to a 3-2 defeat against 10-man Czech Republic on Tuesday evening.
Robin van Persie scored an own goal in a match that saw the Dutch go 3-0 down despite Mark Suchy seeing red.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Van Persie replied to goals from Pavel Kaderabek and Josef Sural but instead it was Turkey who secured third place.
Danny Blind’s side went into their final Group A qualifying match knowing anything short of victory would put paid to their hopes of reaching Euro 2016.
The Dutch were also reliant on Turkey losing their final game at home to Iceland, who had already secured their passage to next year’s finals, and a 1-0 win for the 10-man Turks in Konya ultimately deemed the Netherlands’ result academic.
But the Oranje underlined a miserable campaign by failing to deliver the win that was needed to give the 2014 World Cup third-place finishers even a glimpse of hope. And the manner of their collapse, which came despite playing against 10 men for 50 minutes, epitomised a disastrous campaign.
The Netherlands went into European qualifying following an impressive World Cup campaign in Brazil, but Guus Hiddink assumed the reins as Louis van Gaal left the national set-up to return to club football and a change in approach upset the momentum.
Hiddink’s spell in charge was short-lived as he oversaw defeats to the Czech Republic and Iceland in his opening three qualifiers. Victories over Kazakhstan and Latvia (twice), and a draw against Turkey, left the Euro 1988 winners third in Group A with four games to play, at which point the former Chelsea boss opted to stand down.
Blind was brought in and tasked with leading the Oranje to France, but a further defeat to Iceland – coupled with Turkey’s victory over Czech Republic in October – pushed the Netherlands to the brink and Tuesday’s results extinguished any lingering expectation.
It means next summer’s tournament will be the first time a European Championships has been held without the Dutch since 1984.