AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The startling decline of Dutch soccer was highlighted on Friday when publication of new UEFA rankings confirmed the Netherlands' champions would no longer get an automatic place in the group phase of the next two Champions League campaigns.
It followed the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup in Russia for a country who were runners-up in the showpiece tournament in 2010 and third in Brazil four years later.
A loss of points in the UEFA club coefficient - which determine the number of places allocated to a country in the European club competitions - meant the 2018 champions were already condemned to having to go through the preliminaries in next season’s Champions League
Now, however, the 2019 champions will suffer the same fate after more poor results for Dutch clubs in this season’s European competitions.
Dutch interest effectively ended last month and, although both Feyenoord (in the Champions League) and Vitesse Arnhem (Europa League) won their final group games, it was the first success for both as they finished bottom of their groups.
From next season, the Dutch champions have to go through two preliminary rounds before competing in the group phase in what is a blow to the pride of a country that has produced three different European champions - Feyenoord, Ajax Amsterdam and PSV Eindhoven – and won a total of 11 European Cup, Champions League and UEFA Cup titles.
The Netherlands are now 12th in the UEFA rankings behind the likes of Austria and their neighbours Belgium and the country has become a significant exporter of young talent to richer leagues.
Dutch football was already reeling from the failings of the national team, who have dropped from the heady heights of a World Cup bronze less than four years ago to miss out on both last year’s European Championship and next year’s World Cup.
Feyenoord were the last Dutch club to win a European title when they beat Borussia Dortmund in the 2002 UEFA Cup final.
Ajax reached this year’s Europa League final but meekly fell out of contention this season as they lost to Nice in the Champions League preliminaries and Rosenborg of Norway in the playoffs for a place in the Europa League groups.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town,; Editing by Ed Osmond)