Blind sees play-offs as Dutch's only Euro hope

Netherlands defender Gregory van der Wiel (right) giving away a penalty for this foul on Iceland's Birkir Bjarnason, which drew stinging criticism from his coach.
Netherlands defender Gregory van der Wiel (right) giving away a penalty for this foul on Iceland's Birkir Bjarnason, which drew stinging criticism from his coach.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

AMSTERDAM • New Netherlands coach Danny Blind has admitted that his side are resigned to battling for third place in their Euro 2016 qualifying group following their shock 0-1 home defeat by Iceland on Thursday.

Just over a year after finishing third at the World Cup, the Dutch must get a win in Turkey tomorrow to keep their play-off hopes alive.

The Oranje are third in Group A on 10 points, with Turkey just a point behind.

"The reality is now we have to go for the third place," conceded Blind, although they could yet mathematically win the group. But this is only if leaders Iceland (18) and second-placed Czech Republic (16) implode in their last three games.

The top two teams and the best third-placed team qualify automatically for the finals, while the rest of the third-placed finishers proceed to play-offs in November.

"This was certainly not the scenario that I had in mind for my first game as national coach," added Blind, whose predecessor Guus Hiddink resigned under the weight of criticism for the Dutch's poor results in the campaign.

It all went wrong for the hosts when new Dutch captain Arjen Robben went off in the 27th minute with a groin strain that will rule him out for the crucial Turkey clash.

Defender Bruno Martins Indi was sent off just past the half-hour mark and Gregory van der Wiel gave away a penalty early in the second half. Gylfi Sigurdsson converted the spot kick to put Iceland a win away from their first-ever major tournament finals.

Blind had scathing words for both defenders.

"It was unbelievably unprofessional, something to the detriment of the whole team. That was the turning point of the game," he said of the sending off of Martins Indi for lashing out at an opponent.

The decision against van der Wiel seemed harsh but Blind added: "In football, you have to stay on your feet in those situations and tackle correctly."

The mood in the Iceland camp could not be more different as they celebrated a fairytale double over the Dutch, having beaten them 2-0 in October.

"We can be really proud of winning two games against one of the best attacking teams in Europe," said Iceland's co-coach Heimir Hallgrimsson after the visitors had taken a travelling party of 3,000 fans to Amsterdam. The number is around 1 per cent of the small Nordic island nation's population.

"This is the biggest achievement in our football history."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline 'Blind sees play-offs as Dutch's only Euro hope'. Print Edition | Subscribe