Monaco: You would assume that there are alarm bells going off in the distance in Netherlands as another major tournament — the FIFA World Cup — will come and go this year, but without the sight of the famous Oranje. Given that the orange jerseys, which we have come to associate with the Dutch football team, were also missing from Euro 2016, you would expect a lot of furrowed brows back in Netherlands.
Dutch football legend Ruud Gullit, though, believes that despite Netherlands' failure to make it to two big tournaments in three years, better days are looming on the horizon for his national team.
"No, it's not a crisis,” Gullit tells Firstpost in an exclusive interview at the sidelines of the Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco.
Gullit, who is a Laureus Academy member, likened Netherlands’ twin failures to a wave.
“I think Netherlands’ fortunes are just like a wave, we'll come up again. We just didn't qualify for the World Cup due to goal difference. So we had a chance to qualify. The new generation is coming, so we are hoping for making it to the next European Cup. Italy also didn't qualify for this World Cup, so it happens with everybody,” says Gullit.
Gullit was part of the Dutch national team’s set up as Dick Advocaat’s assistant since the latter took over the team for his third stint in May 2017. However, the duo stepped down in November the same year after failing to guide the Dutch team to the World Cup.
According to many pundits, a major area of concern for the national team has been the inability of the newer generation of footballers to step up and replicate the kind of football played by the likes of Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and the Robin van Persie, a brand of football which saw them dispatching the Spanish national team 5-1 enroute to finishing third at the World Cup only four years ago.
With the Robben-Sneijder-van Persie generation either close to retirement or having called time on their careers, the void is yet to be filled.
“One of the difficulties for the Dutch football team is that when their players are 15 or 16 years old, they get snatched away (by foreign clubs). These players go abroad (to ply their trade), but we haven't seen them play a lot since some of them are relegated to the bench. Look what happened with Nathan Ake: he was with Chelsea, but was on the bench all the time. He missed a big part of his career before leaving for Bournemouth. So he missed a lot of things. A lot of players like him have missed first team football,” says Gullit.
Ake, who has often drawn comparisons to Gullit due to his dreadlocks, first grabbed Chelsea's attention as a 15-year-old, when he played against them in a youth tournament for Feyenoord. He was soon snapped up by the Blues.
He was handed his Premier League debut at 17 by interim boss Rafa Benitez back in 2012 and was part of the Europa League final squad the next year.
However, with Jose Mourinho taking over the next year, his first team opportunities were limited. Three loan spells — at Reading (in 2015), Watford (2015/2016) and
Bournemouth (2016) — followed. Ake finally joined Bournemouth in June 2017, at the age of 22.
Adding to the Dutch football team’s concerns is the fact that the youth teams of Netherlands did not make the cut for either the FIFA U-17 World Cup, held in India, or the FIFA U-20 World Cup, held in South Korea, last year.
Ask Gullit about this, and he’s unperturbed again.
“No, they have done well in the previous tournaments. They're doing okay. Like I said, it's a wave,” he says before adding, “And we have a small country, if you drive one and a half hours one way, you'll end up in Germany. If you drive one and a half hours to the south, you'll end up in Belgium. So we're a small country. But it's a compliment that people still expect a lot from us.”
The author was in Monaco at the invitation of Laureus
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Updated Date: Mar 03, 2018 20:53:34 IST