Netherlands’ Head Coach Danny Blind looks on prior to the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Bulgaria and Netherlands in Sofia on March 25, 2017. NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP
The Dutch football federation have summoned coach Danny Blind for talks following a 2-0 defeat by Bulgaria that leaves hopes of reaching the 2018 World Cup hanging by a thread.
“During an evening in which literally nothing went right, the Netherlands team lost 2-0 to Bulgaria” on Saturday, the federation said in a statement.
“It was a painful defeat in Sofia, during which the chances of the Netherlands qualifying for the World Cup diminished.”
Dutch newspapers pronounced the defeat a “debacle” for which coach Blind could be axed. The daily Algmeen Dagblad said the federation had summoned him to appear for talks on Sunday.
“It is evident that we have to talk,” the Dutch federation’s commercial director Jean-Paul Decossaux told Dutch news agency ANP.
“We might get quick answers, or we might not.
“But we have to take our time. Nothing good comes from rushing things.”
Following the defeat the team drop to fourth place in qualifying Group A from which only the group winners are guaranteed to qualify for the finals in Russia next year.
Failure to qualify, 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 have finished runner-up in the World Cup three times, most recently losing the 2010 final to Spain. They finished third in 2014.
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.
– Gamble –
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.
The gamble to cap the teenager may have backfired but the federation backed Blind on this decision.
It said Blind’s squad was hit by injuries to key defenders with Virgil van Dijk, Jeffrey Bruma and Stefan de Vrij out of contention, leaving the coach with “a puzzle” to find replacements.
He “did not baulk” at the difficult choice to select de Ligt, it said.
After the match Blind told journalists that the task of qualifying for Russia had become harder and 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.
But he later told TV network NOS he wanted to keep his job.
“If the KNVB (Dutch federation) do not take a decision, then I will still be coach on Tuesday,” he said.