Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk resigned on Wednesday after the team’s surprising group-stage exit at Euro 2012, abruptly ending a seesaw career.
Van Marwijk’s contract to 2016 was ended “with immediate effect,” the Dutch soccer federation said in a statement.
The Netherlands lost all three group games to Germany, Portugal and Denmark, after they had entered the tournament with the clear ambition of lifting the cup.
Van Marwijk largely stuck with the team which lost the World Cup final to Spain in extra time two years ago and paid the price. The defense was slow and leaky, its midfield aging, and its collection of stars up front never worked well together.
“I was in serious doubt, but still decided to take this step,” Van Marwijk said in a statement.
Pressure in the media had been mounting for over a week, with calls for quick action before the Netherlands starts its World Cup qualifying campaign this autumn.
Speculation has been rife about possible replacements and hours before Van Marwijk’s resignation, Feyenoord coach and former Netherlands defender Ronald Koeman explicitly said he would not take the job.
The nation had been split about whether Van Marwijk should pick English Premier League top scorer Robin van Persie or Bundesliga top striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar as centerforward, and when his decision to stick with the Arsenal striker backfired during the tournament, many blamed Van Marwijk.
However, the Dutch soccer federation decided to remember the good times.
“We are very grateful to Van Marwijk: He performed exceptionally well with a place in the World Cup final and a first place in the FIFA ranking,” soccer federation director Bert van Oostveen said.
The reality of the day was different. It was the first time in more than a decade that the Netherlands failed to reach the second round at either the World Cup or a Euro, and the first time since 1984 that the Netherlands missed out on a place in a Euro quarter-final.
Under Van Marwijk’s reign, though, something mythical was lost. Since Johan Cruyff, the Netherlands were synonymous with an orange brand of fluid, classy soccer that cherished as much the beauty of the game as the result of a match.
Van Marwijk did away with that, insisting he would rather win ugly than lose beautifully. The Netherlands were brutish during the World Cup final and still lost.
Two years later, that beauty had yet to be recovered, while the losses became worse.
In the end, there was no way out.
Now World Cup qualifying is the focus and the Netherlands is in a group with Romania and Turkey, with only one team guaranteed a spot in the finals.