It was just about inconceivable that the Dutch could qualify for EURO 2016, denying fans the world over an entire month of what is arguably the most iconic aesthetic in world football — the Oranje.
Despite securing a 3-1 victory over Bulgaria on Sunday, the 2010 World Cup runners-up and 2014 third-place finishers find themselves on the brink of missing a second straight major tournament, the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Sweden’s simultaneous 4-0 dismantling of Belarus proved the day’s far bigger result.
Current Group A standings
1. Sweden — 16 points (+11 GD)
2. France — 16 points (+10 GD) — still to play their 8th fixture
3. Netherlands — 13 points (+5 GD)
That’s not so bad, so they just need Sweden to drop points and to beat them head-to-head on the final matchday, you say.
To which reality replies, Sweden’s next game is against Luxembourg, who have four points from their first seven games, prior to playing France later on Sunday, and a -10 goal differential.
Sweden’s already-superior goal differential will further improve (perhaps drastically) before facing the Dutch on Oct. 10, leaving Dick Advocaat’s side would need something in the neighborhood of a 4-0, or 5-0, or maybe even 6-0, victory to overturn the deficit just to get into the qualification playoffs.
To think of the Wesley Sneijder (133 caps), Arjen Robben (93) and Robin Van Persie (101) era ending without a proper tournament send-off almost seems criminal, given everything they’ve accomplished during their 14-, 14- and 12-year international careers, respectively.