The Netherlands could finally be witnessing a decline in their talent pool

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For the first time since the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, the Netherlands have missed out on a major international tournament, having been unable to make it to even the playoffs for Euro 2016 qualification.

In a qualifying group consisting of Czech Republic, Turkey, Iceland, Kazakhstan and Latvia, the Dutch only finished in fourth spot, five points behind third-placed Turkey, who qualified as the best third-placed team across the continent.

This contingency of teams could barely be called the group of death, and most expected Danny Blind's men to cruise past their relatively weaker European counterparts. However, a string of poor results subjected the Oranje to a dismal finish in the qualifying campaign.


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Considering their impressive third-placed finish at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, their failure to qualify for the Euros only a couple of years later begs the question; have the Dutch finally run out of their historically incredible pool of talented players or is it just a phase of transition?

Rich history of talented players

The Netherlands have always boasted star players in their ranks, dating as far back as the 1974 World Cup in Germany, where the legendary Johan Cruyff set the tournament alight.

During the seventies, the Dutch managed to reach the finals at consecutive World Cups in 1974 and 1978, but the eighties witnessed a rather barren spell for the Oranje, as they missed out on major tournaments on more than one occasion, having come incredibly close to qualification.

The late 80's and the early 90's saw a resurgence in star players such as Ruud Gullit, Frank Riijkard and Marco van Basten breaking through, as the team managed to win their first ever major competition at Euro 1988 in West Germany.

The 90's saw a major influx of world class talents into the national team, most of them emerging from the prestigious academies at Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven.

Players such as Frank de Boer, Dennis Bergkamp, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids, Michael Reizeger, Marc Overmars, Edwin van der Sar, Phillip Cocu and several others formed the core of the national team during the mid and late nineties, helping the side to semi-final finishes at the 1998 World Cup in France and Euro 2000 on home soil, having entered both tournaments as serious contenders.

Last golden generation

The next decade saw the arrival of more talented players in the form of Giovanni van Bronkhorst, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Raphael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, in addition to some of the existing veterans from the previous decade.

After promising displays in subsequent Euros in 2004 and 2008 as well as the 2006 World Cup, the Holland team finally came of age in 2010.

Under the management of Bert van Marwijk, the Dutch reached the finals of the World Cup in South Africa where they lost out to winners Spain after extra time. Four years later, Louis van Gaal led the side to the semis, losing to Argentina on penalties. In both of the tournaments, the team was carried by the incredibly talented trio of Robben, Sneijder and Van Persie.

Contrary to previous teams that boasted star players in each and every position, more recent Dutch sides have only contained a few match winners, still allowing the team to progress far in the competition.

Current crop of players

The ageing Robben, Sneijder and Van Persie failed to feature regularly for the Oranje during the Euro 2016 qualifiers, mainly due to injuries, and the younger batch of players have not been convincing enough to carry the team.

As the above three players reach the twilight of their careers, there are not enough emerging players in the side to form the next golden generation of players.

The seeming decline in supply of quality players coming through could be attributed to the failure of Dutch clubs in producing promising talents as they had done in previous decades, as evident from their poor displays in European club competitions.

Perhaps, the problem lies in the academy level at perennial Dutch giants such as Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV, as they have not been able to produce talents worthy of successfully representing the national team.

The most notable players in the current Dutch squad are Daley Blind, Memphis Depay, Jeffrey Bruma and Kevin Strootman, none of whom can be considered as potential match winners or world class talents just yet.

The immediate future for Holland looks rather bleak, as the current players have not been convincing enough. And, as the remaining veterans start to fade away, the Netherlands could face yet another barren spell in the coming years.

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Wesley Sneijder
Robin Van Persie
Ruud Gullit
Euro 2016
Arjen Robben

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