Gullit, Sneijder confident of Dutch resurgence

After the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification disaster, The Netherlands — under Ronald Koeman — can turn over a new leaf, say the greats.

Wesley Sneijder at the Lusail stadium design launch in Doha.   -  Wriddhaayan Bhattacharyya

The Oranje decline in international football is a setback that is hard to compensate. The Netherlands — a tight group over the years — hit rock bottom after it failed to qualify for this year's FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The crisis, however, started two years ago when Danny Blind’s side missed out on EURO 2016 qualification.

Former Dutch star Ruud Gullit feels it is a matter of time before his country turns over a new leaf. “I was assistant coach at the national team a few months ago. I already told the press that we have a very good team. Everybody was skeptic, now they believe it,” he said, on the sidelines of the Lusail stadium design launch here on Saturday.

The Netherlands endured back-to-back failures in the EURO 2016 and World Cup 2018 qualification. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

 

Netherlands’ recent 2-0 victory in the Nations League against world champion France is perhaps a sign of recovery under new coach Ronald Koeman.

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“In the World Cup qualifiers, we lost against France who eventually won the title. But we had won all games after that. We didn’t qualify because of goal difference, but we qualified for the Nations League (A),” said Gullit, who was second-in-command to manager Dick Advocaat last year.

“We had won all the games then, and we are doing the same thing now,” Gullit doesn’t see any difference in approach after the change of reins.

“When I came, the situation was already down.”

It’s a phase

Along with the legendary Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder — who holds a record of 133 appearances for the Dutch side — called time on his career after the World Cup qualification disaster.

The attacking midfielder played a major role behind The Netherlands’ golden run to the final in the 2010 World Cup. He, however, feels success comes in phases. “I think they (The Netherlands) are doing very well at the moment. They changed the team completely. There is a lot of talent coming up, they showed that recently. I am quite sure that they will be here in 2022, that’s what the country wants.

The Netherlands has qualified for the semifinals of the UEFA Nations League. PHOTO: AFP

 

“It’s not like something went wrong in particular. You cannot always be at the highest level. All nations face this problem, but we are coming up again,” Sneijder echoed Gullit.

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Sneijder heaped praises on PSV Eindhoven's Luuk de Jong, who is Eredivisie's top-scorer this season with 14 goals. “He is doing well. He has had a great season so far. He was outside Holland, there was not much success, he continued in PSV and let’s see if we can reach for the cup now.”

(The writer is in Qatar on an invitation by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy)

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