How could the 2010 World Cup runner-up crash out of the European Championship without garnering a single point in its three group matches? Defeats by Denmark, Germany and Portugal sent the Netherlands home wondering how it went so wrong.
For years the Dutch were every neutral's favorites with their orange shirts, Total Football, Johan Cruyff's brilliance,Ruud Gullit's dreadlocks, and for winning Euro 88 when Marco van Bastenscored one of the greatest goals of all time. But they lost the sympathy vote with a rugged and cynical display in the World Cup final against Spain two years ago and few outside their homeland will now be shedding many tears as the Dutch depart.
Arjen Robben endured a miserable month following Bayern Munich's defeat by Chelsea in the Champions League final when he missed a penalty, and he was among the chief culprits as the Netherlands stumbled. He believes the blame is to be shared.
"We all failed -- the players, the technical staff, everyone," he said. "Just like everyone was responsible when we got to the World Cup final in South Africa, now we are all to blame for this defeat."
Though the Netherlands qualified easily for the Euros, its flop has endangered the status of Coach Bert Van Marwijk, whose contract runs until 2016. "We tried to make the team faster and a little bit younger, and make it better in terms of strength in depth," he said of changes instituted in the wake of the 2010 performance. "I knew it wouldn't be easy to do what we did two years ago. It didn't work from the first game onwards."