It was horrific to watch, not only because of Gareth Bale’s dolphin like dive but also the manner of Scotland’s late capitulation.
Not that it was a new experience. There has been a steady stream of dreadful, disappointments in the last 10-15 years for the Tartan Army. You would think the familiarity would lessen the effect, but it doesn’t.
I watched the game with a Dutch friend, who like his countrymen has been spoiled rotten with football for the last 30 years. Since the 1974 World Cup, Holland have regularly competed in the latter stages of International tournaments: being beaten in 3 World Cup finals and winning the Euro’s in 1988.
The Netherlands have 4 times the population of Scotland but 20 times the football capability. The football academies of PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord and Ajax have provided the Dutch national team (and other national teams) with an endless procession of quality players since 1980’s.
And the Eredivisie isn’t only about the big 3 with AZ Alkamaar and FC Twente recently winning titles.
Yet, the Dutch had to endure ten years of disaster before the success of the famous 1988 team of Gullit, Van Basten and Rijkaard began to emerge. From 1982 to 1986 Holland failed to qualify for the successive World Cups and the Euro Championships.
In the end they had to turn to their old master, Rinus Michels to steady the ship.
Not that he didn’t have great players to work with. In addition to the the trinity of Rijkaard, Gullit and Van Basten there was Koeman, Wouters and Van Breukelen in a classic side.
With the exception of this years poor Euro’s in Poland/Ukraine, Holland have consistently competed at the highest level internationally for the last 25 years. In this time they have produced the De Boer brothers, Jaap Staam, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Patrick Kluivert, Edwin van der Sar, Edgar Davids, Michael Reiziger, Clarence Seedorf and the magical Denis Bergkamp.
If England’s underachieving generation of Terry, Lampard, Gerrard etc is “Golden” I have no idea what precious metal this one has been.
The current national team are not lightweight either. With the majority of the squad starring for the major European clubs and combined transfer price of around 250,000 Euro’s their World Cup qualification will be a mere formality.
When they land in Rio in 2014 they will start as realistic favourites, (along with Brazil, Argentina and Spain) for the World Cup.
Current Holland best 11:
Currently, the Eredivsie is arguably the 7th best European League behind England, Spain, Germany,Italy, France and Portugal. Alike all the “smaller” Euro leagues the best players are cherry picked by the best clubs of the big 4 leagues.
While the big three: PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord and Ajax can still attract a good level of player from Latin America or Eastern Europe their real strength lies in their youth development programs which have reared the likes of Robben,Van de Vaart and Huntellar for Holland and Vermaelen and Vertonghen for Belgium in recent years.
Current top 11 players in the Eredivisie:
Somewhat surprisingly the SFA have decided to go Dutch in their future plans for development of the national game and hired a top gun from the Netherlands. However in a typical measure of underwhelming bumbling they did not splash out on statesman alike Johan Cruyff, Guus Hiddink or Frank Arnesen.
Instead they opted for Mark Wotte, a journey man manager who’s greatest achievement so far was a one year stint for FC Utrect then Southampton.
To be fair he has made all the right noises so far and has identified the obvious weaknesses in our games development. His real success will be measured in 1o years time. Which is of no use to our ongoing current predicament.