Former Netherlands captain Mark van Bommel has warned his nation are “going through a real crisis” and blames Louis van Gaal for the situation.
PSV Eindhoven youth coach Van Bommel won 79 caps for the Oranje and was part of the side that reached the 2010 World Cup final.
But although Van Gaal guided the country to the semifinals in Brazil four years later, Van Bommel says the decline of Dutch football had already been set in motion.
“I think France-Netherlands in March 2014 was a real turning point,” Van Bommel told L’Equipe, citing the 2-0 defeat suffered by Van Gaal’s side. “Normally, Louis van Gaal opted for a 4-3-3 system, but during that game, he suddenly went to a 3-5-2 that changed everything.
“Yes, with that set-up our national team reached the World Cup semifinals, but looking back, I think some of the current problems come from that change in tactics. It’s in 4-3-3 that the Netherlands won things.
“We’re now too dependent on Arjen [Robben]. In Brazil, it was he who sent us into the semifinals, because he was in the best form of his life. But to be so dependent on one player is never a good sign. Above all, the whole team has to work.”
Under current boss Danny Blind, Netherlands have made a solid start to 2018 World Cup qualifying, picking up four points to top Group A before Monday’s meeting with France.
Van Bommel, however, forecasts a gloomy outlook for his nation on the football pitch, and criticised younger talents coming through.
“They’re too romantic. They don’t have enough of a winning mentality. They prefer playing well to winning,” Van Bommel said.
“We have a big problem. Robben and Wesley Sneijder are closer to the end of their careers than the start. Robin van Persie, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Nigel de Jong are no longer called up and the future leaders are Kevin Strootman and Georginio Wijnaldum.
“But between them and the young players, there is a huge gap. And our young talents are less good than those of 10 years ago. We’re going through a real crisis. Finishing fourth in a qualifying group [for Euro 2016] behind Iceland, Czech Republic and Turkey is not acceptable.”