COMMENT: The veteran coach is set to start his second reign as Holland boss and will be keen to follow in the footsteps of Louis van Gaal and enjoy a successful return
Guus Hiddink is arguably one of the most renowned and successful coaches of the past three decades and unquestionably deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as illustrious names such as Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Fabio Capello and Louis van Gaal.
The Dutchman has not only enjoyed relative success at international level with countries such as South Korea, Australia and Russia, but also took charge of major club teams such as PSV, Valencia, Real Madrid and Chelsea throughout his career.
Yet there’s one thing that's still missing for Hiddink and that’s winning a major trophy at international level.
And that’s exactly why he didn’t hesitate one second to accept the Dutch football association’s (KNVB) offer when they approached him to replace Louis van Gaal after the 2014 World Cup.
Like his predecessor, Hiddink endured a rather torrid first time in charge of Netherlands, too. Whereas Van Gaal's failure was one of sporting nature, however, it were off the pitch matters that marred Hiddink's previous spell with Oranje.
|TOP 10 NETHERLANDS COACHES BY GAMES
|Marco van Basten||52||35|
|Bert van Marwijk||52||34|
|Louis van Gaal||43||26|
|Jaap van der Leck||29||5|
The 67-year-old only just steered Netherlands through the qualification campaign for Euro 1996, yet things would really kick off during the finals in England. A draw in the opening game versus Scotland was followed by a win over Switzerland, yet there was little reason for happiness after the encounter.
Edgar Davids - who himself had been dropped from the starting XI after Holland’s opener - hit out at Guus Hiddink after the match following his decision to take off Clarence Seedorf after just 26 minutes, telling his coach “to take his head out of certain players’ asses, so he could see things more clearly”.
The ex-Juventus man’s outburst caused a national debate about the internal problems within the squad, with the so-called Kabel – consisting of Davids, Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert, Winston Bogarde and Michael Reiziger – feeling as though they had been treated unfairly by Hiddink, who supposedly preferred players such as Danny Blind and Ronald de Boer.
Hiddink had no other choice but to send Davids home after his comments, but the damage was already done. Holland were demolished by England in their final group game before France proved to be too strong in the knockout stages.
The former Real Madrid boss smoothed things out before the 1998 World Cup and the Dutch impressed with some fine performances in France as they beat Yugoslavia and Argentina on their way to the semi-finals, where they would meet Brazil.
It was again not meant to be for Hiddink and the Dutch, though.
Despite Kluivert’s late goal to cancel out Ronaldo’s opener, Oranje failed to eliminate the South Americans. A late penalty shout after Junior Baiano seemed to foul Pierre van Hooijdonk inside the area was turned down by the referee and Brazil eventually proved to be too strong from 12 yards, thus leaving Hiddink empty handed once more.
Some 16 years later, the experienced coach gets one last chance at winning a major tournament at country level and making amends for that disastrous European Championship in 1996 – and he has inherited an interesting squad from Van Gaal.
Whereas countries such as Germany, Spain and England have all lost a number of players after the World Cup, Oranje still pretty much have the same squad that so surprisingly made it to the semi-finals in Brazil. Star players Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Nigel de Jong still have at least two more years in them at the highest level and players such as Daryl Janmaat, Bruno Martins Indo, Stefan de Vrij, Daley Blind and Georginio Wijnaldum have all made huge steps forward under Van Gaal. Throw in talented youngsters like Memphis Depay, Davey Klaassen and Virgil van Dijk and Holland are a force to be reckoned with again.
Hiddink’s second coming starts with a relatively meaningless friendly against Italy on Thursday, before Czech Republic await on Tuesday in Holland’s first Euro 2016 qualifier.
Ten qualification games and then seven games at the finals in France - that’s all that separates King Guus from his throne. No more Davids nightmares, no more Junior Baiano visions, but glory at last - that’s the goal. The road to redemption starts in Bari and ends at the Stade de France on July 10, 2016.