Dutch under pressure to qualify

2015-09-02 17:03
Arjen Robben (Supplied)

Amsterdam - Danny Blind knows he needs results immediately as he prepares to take charge of the Netherlands for the first time against Iceland on Thursday and Turkey on Sunday in Euro 2016 qualifying.

The Oranje finished third at the World Cup last year under Louis van Gaal but they have so far struggled in the campaign to qualify for next year's European Championship in France.

The Netherlands are third in Group A with just 10 points from six games, defeats in the Czech Republic and Iceland leaving them three points adrift of an automatic qualifying berth.

Their poor form led to coach Guus Hiddink departing and the Royal Dutch Football Federation promoting his assistant Blind to replace him on July 1.

Failure to qualify for the Euros would be considered a disaster, so 54-year-old former Sparta Rotterdam and Ajax defender Blind is now targeting maximum points from the coming games.

Indeed, with a trip to Kazakhstan and a home game with the Czechs also lying in wait in October, Galatasaray midfielder Wesley Sneijder admits: "We need to win at least three of our last four matches...watching the Euros on television is unthinkable."

Blind has said he will deploy a 4-3-3 formation and will not change the style of play "too much". However, he has made some key decisions, notably handing the captain's armband, previously the possession of Robin van Persie, to Arjen Robben.

"It is not a choice I made in accordance with their footballing qualities, but one that takes into account their personalities," said Blind, who maintained that Fenerbahce forward van Persie "perfectly accepted the decision".

"Robin is a player that needs peace and quiet to concentrate on his game while Arjen is more expansive and enthusiastic. It will be up to him to boost his team-mates."

Blind has also convinced Marco van Basten, the three-time winner of the Ballon d'Or and national coach from 2004 to 2008, to become his assistant.

That will allow the hero of the 1988 European Championship triumph to return to an environment he knows inside out without having to bear the pressure of being number one -- van Basten had stepped down as coach of AZ Alkmaar last year due to stress.

"Marco will help our attacking players get back their goal-scoring touch, which they have lost of late," said Blind, who is also assisted by another Dutch striking great in Ruud van Nistelrooy.

The new coaching team are keen to inject fresh blood into the Dutch squad alongside thirty-something veterans like Sneijder, Robben, van Persie and Schalke 04 striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

As a result, teenage Ajax defenders Jairo Riedewald (18) and Kenny Tete (19) have been named in the squad to face Group A leaders Iceland in Amsterdam and Turkey away in Konya on Sunday.

"They are young players but my experienced defenders have committed a lot of mistakes in recent matches. Experience is not everything," said Blind, without revealing whether either Riedewald or Tete would line up against Iceland.

One thing is for sure -- both players will need to be capable of handling the pressure if they are thrown in.

"This week will be one of hope or one of catastrophe," said Bayern Munich superstar Robben.

"For the young players, and for the older ones, there will be a lot of pressure. I have never been confronted such a delicate situation in my time with the national team."


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