19:45 GMT, Thursday 9th November, Pittodrie Stadium (Aberdeen, Scotland), Sky Sports
The pain of failing to qualify for yet another international tournament is still fresh for Scotland fans with the decisive loss against Slovenia having come just over a month ago.
A lot has changed in the last month behind the scenes for The Tartan Army, however, with the failure to qualify being the final nail in the coffin for manager Gordon Strachan. He has been replaced, temporarily at least, by the SFA’s Performance Director Malky Mackay – former manager of Watford and Cardiff.
If Scotland are disappointed by their failure to qualify for the World Cup, their opponents on Thursday, the Netherlands, will be even more disappointed. Having reached the final of the World Cup in 2010 and come within a penalty shoot-out of repeating the feat in the following tournament in, the Netherlands have now failed to qualify for two consecutive international tournaments.
This caused some former players to describe the current squad as ‘the worst ever’ and prompted the retirement of star player Arjen Robben from international football.
Dutch football finds itself, then, at the beginning of a transitional period and it will be interesting to see how they approach the game in Aberdeen.
Last Time Out
Slovenia 2-2 Scotland (World Cup qualifying game)
In a must-win game for Scotland, The Tartan Army gave the travelling fans a false hope before quickly snatching it away as they added to their woeful record of failing to qualify for a World Cup since 1998.
In-form Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths ensured the visitors went into half-time with a deserved lead after his fantastic volleyed finish flew past Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
Scotland did not come out in the second half the same side though and Slovenia grabbed control of the game, with Roman Bezjak scoring in the 52nd and 72nd minutes respectively to deliver a crushing blow to the visitors.
A late Robert Snodgrass equaliser and a Slovenia sending off gave the Tartan Army some late hope but it wasn’t to be and another international tournament slipped away.
Netherlands 2-0 Sweden (World Cup qualifying game)
Despite a strong performance from the Oranje, their 2-0 win over Sweden ultimately proved to be too little, too late to qualify.
Even with the best efforts of captain Arjen Robben who scored both goals, there was nothing that could be done and, when the final whistle came, it also announced the end of his international career.
Interim manager Malky Mackay has strongly hinted that many of the eight uncapped players he has called up to the squad could be in line for their debut on Thursday night.
Perhaps none stand a greater chance than Nottingham Forest striker Jason Cummings, after fellow ex-Hibernian striker Leigh Griffiths withdrew from the squad earlier this week with injury. Captain Darren Fletcher also withdrew injured and so expect Hibs’ dynamic midfielder John McGinn may take his place in the centre of the park.
The Netherlands Line-Up
Dutch manager Dick Advocaat returns to the country where he enjoyed a lot of success as Rangers manager for his final game in charge of the Netherlands.
With Arjen Robben’s retirement and Wesley Sneijder soon to follow, it is time for the likes of Manchester United man Daley Blind and Liverpool’s Georginio Wjnaldum to stand up and take responsibility.
Key Battle: Memphis Depay v Andrew Robertson
Scotland have been blessed with two fantastic young full-backs in Celtic’s Kieran Tierney and Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson and the latter is the more likely to be in direct opposition to tricky Lyon winger Memphis Depay. Things didn’t work out for the former Manchester United man in the Premier League but Depay was once widely believed to have the potential to be one of the best players in the world and could thrive if given time and space at Pittodrie on Thursday night.
Conversely, it was Andrew Robertson’s attacking prowess as much as his defensive ability that convinced Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp to sign him from relegated Hull City in the summer and Depay can’t afford any of the defensive lapses that plagued his time at Old Trafford and eventually caused Jose Mourinho to ship him out to Ligue 1.
How many new faces will we see?
With the old guard failing to qualify for a tournament yet again, perhaps it is time for a fresh breed of young Scottish players to be given their chance.
Scotland’s interim manager Malky Mackay has been true to his word and picked his first squad on form with eight new faces coming in that he has promised to give an opportunity. Graeme Shinnie and Ryan Christie are enjoying good seasons with the Premiership’s second best team Aberdeen, whilst Celtic’s Callum McGregor and Hibs captain Paul Hanlon have also earned their chance.
For the Netherlands, 20-year-old Ajax striker Donny van de Beek has been given a chance to make his debut, whilst in-form PSV striker Jurgen Locadia has also made the squad.
Is this an audition for Malky Mackay?
Mackay has repeatedly stated that he would accept the manager’s job should he be offered it permanently. Despite representing a possible conflict of interest with his current role as the SFA’s Performance Director, the ex-Watford manager has said this week that any Scotsman would accept the job if offered it.
After leaving his only Premier League role in charge of Cardiff City in disgrace amidst allegations from owner Vincent Tan of racism, antisemitism and homophobia, it would certainly represent an ethical dilemma for the SFA even if Scotland were to beat the Netherlands convincingly on Thursday night.
Prediction: Scotland 3-1 Netherlands
Just over a month after finding yet another way of failing to qualify for an international tournament, there would be something typically Scottish about putting in an outstanding performance against one of the world’s iconic national teams on Thursday night.
Scotland are playing for places under a new manager whereas this is likely to be Dick Advocaat’s last game in charge of the Netherlands and so motivation could not higher amongst the boys in navy blue.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?