MINSK • For a country that has such rich footballing pedigree, missing the last two major tournaments has been a "very painful" experience for the Netherlands.
Coach Ronald Koeman has, however, lifted the Dutch team out of the wilderness since taking over in February last year and the team are now on the verge of qualifying for Euro 2020.
A brace from Georginio Wijnaldum gave the visitors a 2-1 victory in Belarus on Sunday night, keeping them on top of Group C on 15 points, level on points with Germany and three clear of Northern Ireland.
Netherlands now need a draw in their next qualifier in Belfast on Nov 16 to book their Finals place.
Liverpool midfielder Wijnaldum said: "It was very painful to miss the last World Cup and European Championship before that.
"When we were off on holiday in the past summers, it was going through my head the whole time that we should have been there. Of course, we are not completely sure of a place in (next year's) tournament, but we have certainly taken a giant step."
With the Dutch missing several chances against Belarus, the 28-year-old admitted that they would have to be more clinical if they were to make the Finals.
"In the second half, we thought it might be too easy. That was laziness," he said. "That is why we are critical of our own performance now. If we play like that against the best teams in Europe, it can be fatal.
"But looking at the bigger picture, it was a fifth win in six qualifiers and that is obviously good, especially if you see where we have come from.
"There is still a lot to come from this group of players. That is why we must stick together."
Having played in Brazil in 2014, Wijnaldum is one of the few members in the youthful-looking Dutch squad who have World Cup experience and he believes that playing on the biggest stages "is massive for your development as a player".
"But first, we must qualify. We all know strange things can happen in football. If we keep our concentration in Northern Ireland, then all will turn out well."
In Tallinn, Germany also took another step towards qualification after beating Estonia 3-0 despite playing with 10 men for most of the game. Emre Can was shown a red card early on, but the visitors regrouped after the break with Ilkay Gundogan's brace and substitute Timo Werner sinking the hosts.
Joachim Low, praising his side for "keeping calm" despite the numerical disadvantage, added: "The decisive factor was that we increased the tempo in the second half."
Elsewhere, Poland's 2-0 Group G win over North Macedonia in Warsaw allowed them to join Italy, Belgium and Russia at the Finals.
Wales kept alive their flagging hopes with a 1-1 Group E home draw with Croatia. The visitors are top with 14 points, while the Welsh, in fourth place, have eight with a game in hand.