UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Blind and Robben ready for baptism of fire

The Netherlands have a new coach and a new captain as they embark on a four-game mission to save their Group A campaign, starting against leaders Iceland in Amsterdam.

Danny Blind's first outing as Netherlands coach is against group leaders Iceland
Danny Blind's first outing as Netherlands coach is against group leaders Iceland ©Getty Images

Having replaced Guus Hiddink as Netherlands coach last month, Danny Blind begins his reign in earnest with the toughest possible assignment in Group A: Thursday's visit of leaders Iceland to Amsterdam.

Previously earmarked to assist Hiddink through UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying and then take the top job, Blind was fast-tracked to the Oranje helm on 1 August, his 54th birthday. What precipitated the move was the Netherlands' precarious position in third place in Group A, five and three points respectively behind Iceland and Czech Republic. Blind, the former Ajax defender and coach, has four games to save the Dutch campaign.

He may have assisted Louis van Gaal as the Netherlands finished third at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but the 42-times Oranje international has little margin for error – or experimentation. His predecessor Hiddink already suffered for the latter, returning to the classical Dutch 4-3-3 system from Van Gaal's successful 5-3-2 and losing his first friendly to Italy. When Hiddink subsequently switched back to 5-3-2 for the first European Qualifier against the Czechs, another defeat ensued – followed by further tinkering and topsy-turvy form.

Since Blind's appointment alongside assistants Marco van Basten and Ruud van Nistelrooy, however, he has been clear that "we are going to play 4-3-3, or better 1-4-3-3" – mentioning the goalkeeper just as his mentor Van Gaal always used to do. For the new man, any changes will be in the details.

"The style of play won't change too much: the way we played before, we will continue in the same way in terms of formation," he told UEFA.com. "But when I talk about details, I could mean the exact timing in terms of putting pressure on opponents, in which area of the pitch, by which players, and what distance from your own goal. So really tactical things. There will always be differences, that's obvious."

Highlights of Iceland 2-0 Netherlands

One definite alteration affects the captaincy, with the 85-times-capped Arjen Robben rewarded with the armband, perhaps in a nod to his more open leadership role at the Brazil World Cup. Robin van Persie becomes vice-captain instead.

"Arjen is someone who brings that enthusiasm to the team, brings a certain spirit with his way of coaching and motivating. Robin is more of a captain who talks calmly to the players and has one-on-one conversations with them. He'll continue to do that – he is still my vice-captain. I hope both these fantastic players keep making a contribution," Blind said.

Robben, 31, returns for the honour after missing the last four Netherlands matches through injury. "I'm very proud," he told UEFA.com "To be captain of your country, that's something very special. But apart from that not much changes – I will continue to take responsibility as I did before. Robin will do the same, and the other experienced players will do too. That's the most important thing at this moment. Of course you can't look past something like this – for yourself as a person it's a great honour – but we have only one goal and that's to reach the EURO."

Selected for you