Dutch's own goal seals Euro exit
THE Netherlands failed to reach the European Championship for the first time since 1984 as they lost 2-3 at home to the 10-man Czech Republic in their final qualifier on Tuesday to miss out on Euro 2016.
The Dutch, third at last year's World Cup in Brazil, saw their hopes of a dramatic rescue act in the campaign evaporate as they conceded two first-half goals.
The 1988 European champions had to win and hope Turkey lost at home to Iceland to sneak into third place in Group A and book a slot in next month's play-offs.
However, the Netherlands were consigned to fourth spot behind the Turks, who won 1-0 to secure a place at the Finals in France as the best third-placed team.
Pavel Kaderabek and Josef Sural stunned the hosts with goals in the first period and the game was over when substitute Robin van Persie headed into his own net in the 66th minute. The Dutch consolation goals came from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and van Persie.
The loss left the Dutch with 13 points from their 10 matches behind Turkey on 18, while the Czechs claimed top spot in the group with 22 points, two ahead of Iceland.
"The truth is, we gave it away," midfielder Wesley Sneijder told Dutch NOS radio. "We needed to be disciplined and sharp because we weren't going to get too many chances.
"We knew it would be tough, but to so easily concede goals meant it was all over for us early in the game."
Dutch coach Danny Blind said he would not be resigning.
"I have no intention to step down. I'm going to carry on with my work because I'm under contract until 2018 and I believe in this team," Blind, who replaced Guus Hiddink in July, said afterwards.
"I haven't achieved my goal. The aim was to qualify automatically or via the play-offs and I haven't done that.
"Am I the one to blame? I now have to analyse that. The results weren't good. I won only one match (out of four since taking over)."
The Netherlands were European champions in 1988 and third in 1992, 2000 and 2004. They went out at the group stage of the last edition at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
Croatia also made the Finals with a 1-0 win over Malta, but it was touch and go until the closing moments.
Croatia, who started with 17 points, and Norway, who had 19, were both looking for the second automatic qualifying berth in Group H behind group winners Italy.
But with the finishing line in sight, Norway collapsed, conceding two late goals to Italy's Alessandro Florenzi after 73 minutes and Graziano Pelle eight minutes from time, to lose 1-2 and allow Croatia to overtake them.
That meant the Norwegians settling for a spot in the play-offs.
The draw for the play-offs, which also feature Bosnia, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Slovenia, Ukraine and Hungary, will be held in Nyon on Sunday.
The first legs will be held from Nov 12-14 with the return matches Nov 15-17.
The winners will clinch the last four remaining berths for next year's tournament in France.
In all, 24 teams will contest the European Championship next summer - the most ever - with France assured of qualification as hosts.