For the second tournament in succession, the Netherlands will be sitting at home while a major international tournament is occurring.
Having missed out qualification for Euro 2016, the Dutch have now missed out on a place at next year’s World Cup in Russia – failing even to finish in a playoff place to give themselves a fighting chance.
Despite finishing level on points with runners-up Sweden, their inferior goal difference, helped in a big way by the Swedes’ 8-0 demolition of Luxembourg last weekend, means that they finish third in the group with France winning the pool and sealing automatic qualification.
It is the latest catastrophe for the Netherlands in a seemingly never-ending decline stemming from their last World Cup appearance. On that occasion they finished third under Louis van Gaal but since then they have lurched from one problem to another, with a disastrous Euro 2016 qualification campaign followed up by an equally wretched World Cup 2018 attempt.
Dick Advocaat’s side needed to win by seven goals against Sweden in the Amsterdam ArenA on Tuesday night, but two goals from Arjen Robben in the first half, the Oranje had just given themselves too much to do in this fixture and the 2-0 victory was not enough.
The postmortem will begin in earnest as to how the Netherlands, one of the most prominent nations in the football world, have failed to qualify for two tournaments in a row. Once is a blip, two is a problem. Premier League standard players such as Virgil van Dijk, Daley Blind and Gini Wijnaldum as well as a world class player in Robben and bright young players have now failed to so much as make the playoffs yet again.
The standard may not be anywhere that of even five years ago, but the KNVB are unlikely to accept this as reason enough for such a dramatic dip in results.
Manager Dick Advocaat is likely to walk away (rather than be sacked like his predecessors Guus Hiddink and Danny Blind) but assistant Ruud Gullit is unlikely to be handed the reins with such a huge rebuilding job necessary. They may go back in for Everton boss Ronald Koeman and while the Dutch legend has been reluctant to consider international management in the past, the fact that things aren’t going well at Goodison Park right now may turn his head slightly.
The playoff draw will take place next Tuesday, but the Netherlands must now wait until Euro 2020 for their crack at a major international finals.
In this weeks episode of the Mixer Irish football podcast we reflect on Ireland’s fantastic result in Wales, discuss the future of Irish football with Joe Gamble and analyse the latest League of Ireland Premier Division action.