AMSTERDAM • It has been three weeks since Ronald Koeman vacated his position as Netherlands coach to take up the reins at Barcelona.
The Oranje, however, have yet to name his permanent successor and the uncertainty was telling on Monday as the listless Dutch fell to their first defeat in eight games since losing to European champions Portugal in the Nations League final in June last year.
Inter Milan midfielder Nicolo Barella scored the winner, heading home in first-half stoppage time, as Italy claimed a 1-0 away victory in Amsterdam, though it was tinged by the news that Nicolo Zaniolo suffered another torn anterior cruciate ligament injury.
The Roma midfielder spent six months on the sidelines last season after picking up the same problem.
However, the Azzurri, who are now unbeaten in their past 16 games going back to 2018, now occupy top spot in Group A1 with four points from two games, one point clear of the Dutch, who were playing their second game under interim coach Dwight Lodeweges.
On whether he would still be in charge for next month’s Nations League contests, away to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Italy, the 62-year-old urged the Dutch Football Association to shed some clarity soon.
“That depends on the board. I have no idea. I was supposed to take over for now,” he said.
“If there’s no new manager, they might ask me to help them out again. I’ll wait and see.
“The biggest problem before half-time was that we were too far apart. Their dynamics forced us to make decisions all the time.
“We lost to a very good team, a top opponent who basically does the same things as we do, but performed much better.
“We didn’t help each other enough in the first half. Just running very fast and working very hard is not enough. When we won possession of the ball, we were not fresh. The spaces were too big.”
Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong (far left) vying for the ball with Italy’s Nicolo Barella during their Nations League clash on Monday. Barella scored the winner in first-half stoppage time. PHOTO: REUTERS
8 The Netherlands’ defeat under their caretaker coach was their first in eight games since losing last year’s Nations League final.
The longer the Dutch take to bring in a recognised top coach, the more they risk throwing away the progress Koeman made in helping the team qualify for the postponed Euro 2020 – their first major tournament since missing out on Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.
Former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has expressed an interest in coming out of retirement to manage the team, who he took to the 2014 World Cup semi-finals.
But according to Dutch football magazine Voetbal International, the players’ council, comprising captain Virgil van Dijk, Kevin Strootman, Ryan Babel, Matthijs de Ligt and Daley Blind, have reportedly nominated former Ajax Amsterdam coach Henk ten Cate as their No. 1 choice.
In Belfast, Erling Braut Haaland and Alexander Sorloth scored twice each as Norway thrashed Northern Ireland 5-1 to hand Ian Baraclough a humbling home debut as manager.