Netherlands loses 3-2 to Czech Republic, misses Euro 2016
AMSTERDAM (AP) The Netherlands squandered its last chance of reaching the playoffs for next year's European Championship in a humiliating 3-2 defeat by 10-man Czech Republic on Tuesday.
The debacle in Amsterdam came in sharp contrast to the celebrations of Group A rival Turkey, which needed only 10 men to beat Iceland 1-0 to take the automatic qualifying place for Euro 2016 as the best third-place finisher.
The Dutch had started the match two points behind Turkey, but also behind on the teams' head-to-head record. It meant that Turkey only needed to avoid losing to Iceland to at least qualify for the playoffs and condemn the Dutch to missing the European Championship for the first time since 1984.
''You have to look to the future now,'' coach Danny Blind said. ''This is very disappointing for the players, for me, for the Netherlands but we have to look ahead and the new goal is qualifying for (the World Cup in) Russia.''
In the end, the Turks beat Iceland with a late goal and the Dutch torpedoed their own playoff hopes with another display of hapless defending and hopeless finishing - just over a year after finishing third at the World Cup in Brazil.
Following a promising start that saw winger Anwar El Ghazi draw a save from Petr Cech in the first minute, the Netherlands lapsed back into the sort of ponderous build up play that plagued the team's qualification campaign.
That allowed the Czechs to seize control of the match and the visitors took a deserved lead in the 24th minute when Jiri Skalak laid off the ball to right back Pavel Kaderabek who drilled the ball into far corner past Jeroen Zoet.
Josef Sural doubled the Czechs' lead when he easily shrugged off Virgil van Dijk and poked the ball in at Zoet's near post 11 minutes later.
The Netherlands' all-time top scorer Robin van Persie was again left on the bench by Blind, but he introduced the veteran of 101 internationals before halftime as he went for all-out attack.
Marek Suchy helped the Dutch cause when he brought down Memphis Depay just before half time and was sent off.
But even against 10 men, the Dutch struggled and after Van Persie headed in a 66th-minute own goal the home fans stopped jeering their team and some started heading for the Amsterdam Arena exits instead.
The supporters who stuck around saw Klaas-Jan Huntelaar peg back the lead with a 70th-minute header and - with the Dutch fielding a five-man attack - Van Persie score at the correct end to make it 3-2 with seven minutes to go. Less than a minute later, Van Persie was booked for diving as he tried to win a penalty and that was as close as the Dutch got to scoring again.
Blind was left ruing his long injury list, which includes key players Arjen Robben, Ron Vlaar and Kevin Strootman.
And the coach insisted he would not be quitting, despite losing three of his four matches in charge and missing qualification.
''I am confident in myself,'' he said.
Turkey came through against Iceland despite losing Gokhan Tore to a red card for a studs-up tackle in the 78th minute.
Selcuk Inan scored with a superb free kick in the 89th minute to give Turkey a win that meant the Czechs won Group A from Iceland in second. Kazakhstan beat Latvia 1-0 in the group's other match.