THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Only three months after the Netherlands reached the World Cup semifinals, the team is crumbling.
And Guus Hiddink, the man who guided the team to the 1998 semifinals but only returned as coach of his country's national team after the last World Cup, is the one being blamed.
"I think Guus Hiddink doesn't have really a game plan," former Netherlands midfielder Ronald de Boer, who previously played under Hiddink, told Sky Sports. "With all due respect for Hiddink, he's 67 years old."
The Dutch have lost three of four matches since Hiddink took over from Louis van Gaal, including a European Championship qualifier against Iceland on Monday. The 2-0 loss — the first Dutch setback against the island nation in 11 meetings — sparked an outcry against Hiddink, who also led South Korea to the World Cup semifinals in 2002.
Top-selling national daily De Telegraaf said the team was "in a state of decay."
Despite the qualifying losses to Iceland and the Czech Republic, the Dutch are far from out of the running to qualify for Euro 2016.
The top two teams in each of the nine groups progress automatically, the best third-place team also qualifies automatically, and the other eight can qualify through a playoff. But the losses and poor play are a national headache for a country obsessed by the fortunes of its beloved "Oranje."
It was only three months ago that euphoria greeted nearly every Dutch performance in Brazil, where Van Gaal's tactical switches — from dropping the favored Dutch 4-3-3 system, to swapping goalkeepers for a penalty shootout, to playing winger Dirk Kuyt at left back — all seemed to work.
The Netherlands dismantled defending champion Spain 5-1 in its first match and went on to the semifinals, where the team finally lost to Argentina on penalties.
After beating Brazil 3-0 for third place, Van Gaal left for Manchester United — where he also has had a far-from-fantastic start — while Hiddink took over the Dutch national team for the first time since that semifinal run at the 1998 World Cup in France.
In between his two stints with the Netherlands, Hiddink found success just about everywhere he went. Besides his time with South Korea, he guided Australia to the second round of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
But his golden touch appears to have disappeared this time.
The Dutch team's defense, which performed far better than most observers expected in Brazil, now looks vulnerable, while the midfield lacks creative spark and the forward line appears overly reliant on Arjen Robben.
Even before Monday's loss, Hiddink had to clear the air between strikers Robin van Persie and Klaas Jan Huntelaar after a high-profile on-the-field disagreement between the two in Friday's come-from-behind victory over Kazakhstan.
His substitutions against Iceland, pulling off his two creative midfielders as the team tried to claw its way back from a two-goal deficit, also were questioned.
Some say his hands-off approach, a stark contrast to Van Gaal's strict style, is not working and he needs to get tough with his team.
Robben, understandably, was also unimpressed with the team's performance in Reykjavik.
"Rubbish," he told Dutch broadcaster NOS. "Not worthy of the Netherlands team."
Hiddink was more measured, however, saying after the match that the team and management need to calmly analyze what is going wrong.
"We have to keep our emotions in check and take a careful look at the state of Dutch football," Hiddink said, "and then talk about how to progress."