Netherland’s Head Coach Danny Blind (R) stands next to his son, Netherland’s defender Daley Blind during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying football match between Bulgaria and Netherland in Sofia on March 25, 2017.NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP
Danny Blind was sacked as Netherlands coach on Sunday after a 2-0 defeat to Bulgaria left the team’s chances of reaching the World Cup finals hanging by the slenderest of threads.
Blind, 55, had been in charge since July 2015, succeeding Guus Hiddink, but Saturday’s loss in Sofia left the Dutch in fourth place in qualifying Group A, six points behind leaders France.
Only the group winners are guaranteed a place in the 2018 finals in Russia. Blind said he was saddened by the decision. “We were on the right track in Bulgaria, but it’s a pity that it ends like this,” he said.
Blind’s assistant Fred Grim will take charge of the team for Tuesday’s friendly against Italy in Amsterdam, the Dutch football federation (KNVB) said.
“We (the federation) have a lot of respect for Danny, but due to negative results and the difficulty we have to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, we must part company with him,” said the KNVB in a statement.
The Netherlands, three-times World Cup runners-up, also failed to qualify for Euro 2016. “To qualify for Russia will be very complicated,” admitted star midfielder Wesley Sneijder.
The writing was already on the wall for Blind after he was summoned to meet the federation in the aftermath of the Bulgarian setback. Dutch newspapers pronounced the defeat a “debacle”.
Failure to qualify for Russia next year, on the back of failure to reach the 2016 Euro finals, would be a major shock for one of the most successful footballing nations who were World Cup finalists as recently as 2010 when they lost to Spain. They finished third in 2014 in Brazil.
Netherlands skipper Arjen Robben said the defeat in Sofia was a “nightmare”. “It’s sad. I’m speechless. The first half was shocking,” said the 33-year-old Bayern Munich winger.
Bulgaria stunned the Dutch with two goals in the first 20 minutes, both coming from Spas Delev, who opened his international account.
The first came from an error by 17-year-old Matthijs De Ligt, Holland’s youngest debutant since 1931, who misjudged a pass and allowed the striker to slot the ball past Jeroen Zoet.
Blind said he “did not baulk” at the difficult choice to select de Ligt, said the federation. After the match Blind questioned whether he was still the man for the job. “I have to reflect on whether I am capable of getting us out of this jam,” he said.