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Euro 2016 qualifier: Dutch success now anything but guaranteed

June 11, 2015 00:26 IST

Dutch fans show their support during an UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier in Amsterdam. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Victory for the Netherlands in Friday's Euro 2016 qualifier in Latvia would have been seen as practically guaranteed after a successful World Cup in Brazil but a faltering qualifying campaign has precipitated a confidence crisis.

There is an uneasy air as the Dutch travel to Riga for their Group A game, their concerns exacerbated by injury in training on Tuesday to central defender Ron Vlaar.

He was a certainty to shore up the back four after the Dutch warmed up last Friday for the qualifier with a desperate defensive performance in a 4-3 home loss to the United States in a friendly international.

Vlaar's place is to be taken by Bruno Martins Indi, said coach Guus Hiddink, whose return to the helm of the side has not lived up to expectation so far. Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder in the starting line-up still makes the Dutch favourites for all three points in Riga.

Wesley Sneijder of Netherlands in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier match against Turkey. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

I think that the loss to the Americans was a good wake-up call," Sneijder told reporters this week.

"Otherwise we might have gone to Riga with a bit of a feeling of we are off on a holiday. This happens sometimes at the end of season but we have had our knuckles tapped and everyone is now a look sharper," he said of his squad mates.

The Dutch are third in the group, outside of the top two automatic qualifying berths, trailing the Czech Republic by six points and Iceland by five. Losses in Prague and Reykjavik have put Hiddink's team firmly on the back foot, less than a year after they finished third at the World Cup.

Latvia must do without CSKA Moscow midfielder Aleksandrs Cauna and Hamburg forward Artjoms Rudnevs for Friday's match.

Latvia were just seconds away from a famous win away against the Czechs in March when they gave up a last-gasp equaliser in a 1-1 draw. They have drawn three and lost two of their five qualifiers, including a 6-0 loss to the Dutch in Amsterdam last November.

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