For a nation with such a proud football history, the Netherlands have under-performed in Olympic qualifying in recent times. Despite gaining three bronze medals prior to the Second World War [1908, 1912, 1920], the Dutch have not participated in the men's tournament since 1952. They reached a play-off for the 1992 tournament but were denied a place in Barcelona by Australia in an inter-confederation play-off.
The Dutch derived full benefit from hosting the UEFA European U-21 Championship, which doubled as a qualifying tournament for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament; the four semi-finalists doubling as Europe's representatives in Beijing. Despite the absence of star striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the Dutch took just two games to confirm their presence at the Olympic Games, successive 1-0 wins over Israel and Portugal booking them a place in the semi-finals. The Jong Oranje went on to become European U-21 Champions as well, defeating Serbia in the tournament final.
Jong Oranje coach Foppe de Haan will be able to call upon a number of players competing at the top level in Europe, including Liverpool winger Ryan Babel and Valencia's Hedwiges Maduro, a member of the Dutch squad at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. De Haan has every reason to be confident following his team's success in the European U-21 Championship - the second continental triumph in a row for the Dutch. "There are a lot of young players coming into the team at the moment, so Dutch football has plenty of good times ahead," said the veteran coach.
Facts and figures
Jan Vos (1912) and Ber Groosjohan (1920)
Three wins and two draws from five games; ten goals scored, five conceded.
The numbers game
56: the number of years since the Dutch have competed in the FIFA Men's Olympic Football Tournament.
|7||Jonathan DE GUZMAN|
|DE HAAN Foppe|