SOFIA • Danny Blind admitted he will think about his future as coach of the Netherlands after Saturday's 2-0 defeat in Bulgaria left them facing an uphill struggle to qualify for next year's World Cup Finals.
Netherlands skipper Arjen Robben described his team's shock loss as "a nightmare" and the Group A table certainly made for scary reading for fans of the three-time World Cup runners-up.
The result left the Dutch six points behind Group A leaders France, who beat Luxembourg 3-1, and down in fourth spot, three back from Sweden and two off Bulgaria with just the group winners guaranteed a place in the 2018 Finals in Russia.
"The blame is on me. It falls firmly on my roof. I must now think about it and my employer will be doing the same," Blind said. "I've worked long enough in football to understand how it works. I must now look at myself in the mirror. It can't carry on like this."
Blind took over as coach from Guus Hiddink in a bid to resuscitate the Dutch qualifying campaign for Euro 2016 in France but a shock home defeat to Iceland in his first match in charge quickly ended any possibility of a revival as the Netherlands failed to reach the European Championship last year.
Blind has won seven and lost seven of his 17 games in charge since taking over in 2015.
DREAM BECOMES A NIGHTMARE
We came here with good intentions, but it has become a nightmare.
ARJEN ROBBEN, Netherlands captain, voicing his disappointment after the loss.
"I must be truthful to myself and to the KNVB (the Dutch football association)," the manager said. "I must be convinced that I can get things right but we must also be honest and say that getting to Russia is now going to be a lot more difficult. I must think now whether I'm still capable of doing the job."
The KNVB yesterday summoned the 55-year-old for talks as they were left contemplating missing a second straight major tournament.
"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."
Blind was heavily criticised for making 17-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt the Netherlands' youngest debutant since 1931 after just a few matches at club level for Ajax Amsterdam. The teenager was at fault for both goals. His mistake led to a fifth-minute goal for Spas Delev, who scored a second 15 minutes later after de Ligt failed to clear the danger with a weak header. He was taken off at half-time.
"If I have to now judge it, it was too early to put him in the team," Blind conceded. "But the big players also did not bring to the game what we expected from them," he added, arguably referring to his son and Manchester United defender Daley Blind, Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, and Bayern Munich attacker Robben.
"What can I tell you? We came here with good intentions, but it has become a nightmare," Robben, 33, said. "We win together and we lose together. It's sad. I'm speechless. The first half was shocking."
In contrast, Frenchman Olivier Giroud once again proved his worth to his country despite being a rare starter for his club Arsenal this season. The striker opened the scoring in Luxembourg just before the half-hour mark. Luxembourg levelled after 34 minutes thanks to Aurelien Joachim's penalty, his country's first goal against France in 39 years. But the minnows' joy was short-lived as Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann restored France's lead, also from the spot, just four minutes later.
Giroud, who has started only seven Premier League games for Arsenal this season, scored his second after 77 minutes when he was set up by Benjamin Mendy.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE