While Scotland have become grimly accustomed to failure to qualify for major finals over the past 20 years, it is a painful and unwelcome experience for their opponents at Pittodrie tonight.
For the first time since the 1980s, when they missed out on the World Cups of 1982 and 1986 as well as the European Championship finals of 1984, Netherlands have suffered consecutive failed campaigns.
The shock of finishing fourth in their qualifying group for the Euro 2016 finals was compounded by a 2018 World Cup campaign in which even an “SOS” to Dick Advocaat could not provide salvation.
The former Rangers manager returned for a third spell in charge of his national team in March this year but, despite guiding them to four wins in their last five qualifiers, they missed out on goal difference to Sweden for a place in this month’s play-offs.
It means 70-year-old Advocaat, in Aberdeen for the first time since leading Rangers to a 3-0 win at Pittodrie back in July 2001, will sign off from the job again after the Dutch play their second friendly of this international break against Romania next Tuesday.
“It’s always pleasant to come back to Scotland,” Advocaat said on his arrival in Aberdeen yesterday. “[But] there are no friendly games anymore. Let’s wait until after the game to see who comes out on top.”
Advocaat will play a role in identifying his successor in the job, a process which will be led by new Dutch FA managing director Erik Gudde who has just left a similar post at Feyenoord. Like the Scottish FA, Gudde and his colleagues find themselves casting envious glances at smaller countries who are currently enjoying far greater success.
“I will be speaking to Dick Advocaat about the situation,” said Gudde. “We will be looking at how countries such as Iceland, Serbia and Belgium have conducted their business and the stability and continuity that they have shown in recent times with a reasonably small squad and a clear playing style and also playing with a lot of passion. These are facets that we must must strive to emphasise.”
The Dutch have lost one of their stellar names with the retirement of Arjen Robben and have suffered several withdrawals to the squad for tonight’s match.
Strikers Jurgen Locadia, Bas Dost and Vincent Janssen all pulled out, leaving PSV Eindhoven’s Luuk De Jong in line to lead their attack.