Sunday's Singapore Stipes' report highlights

JOY OF WINNING: Jockey Saifudin Ismail standing up to celebrate his success on $53 outsider Desert Fox, who got up in the last few strides to beat the $11 favourite Lively Dragon (No. 5) in Race 5 at Kranji on Sunday.
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Wales must wait

Midfielder Ramsey confident of securing qualification next month

FATIGUE: Midfielder Aaron Ramsey (in red) says the effects of back-to-back games took their toll on the Welsh players.
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Size doesn't matter

Tiny Iceland's improbable qualification is the culmination of a long-term project since 2000

MIRACLE MAN: Iceland coach Lars Lagerback says leading Iceland to their first European Championship tops the achievement of five Euro appearances with Sweden.
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Hopeless Holland on the way out after losing 3-0 to Turkey

Dutch veterans are past their prime while Blind's emphasis on youth is admirable but awful

ORANJE TURNS SOUR: Robin van Persie (left) and Wesley Sneijder (right) mulling over the tough task after conceding the third goal.


TURKEY 3 (Oguzhan Ozyakup 8, Arda Turan 26, 
Burak Yilmaz 85)


In a warped way, Holland should give Manchester United hope.

Louis van Gaal's credibility has been questioned in recent weeks following his haphazard dealings in the transfer market, but the ongoing Dutch disaster is a timely reminder of his wonderful resume.

When he was good, the Dutch were so often great. Right now, they're hopeless.

Their 3-0 defeat in Turkey yesterday morning (Singapore time) makes qualification for Euro 2016 a near-impossible mountain to climb.

The only viable route left is the play-offs, but the Turks are soaring in Group A and clinging to third spot.

A little over a year ago, such a precarious position was unthinkable.

Watching bronzed bodies in orange jerseys train beneath the imposing statue of Christ the Redeemer, the thought of the World Cup semi-finalists as a fading force in Europe seemed absurd.

Following his tactical masterstroke in switching Jasper Cillessen for Tim Krul in the quarter-final shoot-out against Costa Rica, van Gaal was master of all as he surveyed that sunny afternoon at their Flamengo training camp.

Robin van Persie messed around with his manager on the touchline, perhaps already aware that their close relationship was about to be rekindled on the freezing Carrington training pitches.

The samba spirit of their hosts had taken hold. They were two steps from glory.

Now, van Persie labours in Turkey for Fenerbache, van Gaal faces daily vitriol for United's erratic performances and the Oranje are pale imitations of those topless, tanned torsos in Brazil.

Against Turkey, they were closer to a rabble.


Van Persie was unable to shake off the shackles of Hakan Balta. The 32-year-old's indecision around the penalty box was matched by the ineptitude in the dugout.

After two games and two defeats, manager Danny Blind is already refusing to resign. He had better move quickly before he's sacked.

The 54-year-old inherited a poisoned chalice from Guus Hiddink, who has spent much of the last five years more preoccupied with pay cheques than tactics.

But the losses against Iceland and Turkey in Group A betray a proud football nation rapidly unravelling, an uncomfortable mix of World Cup veterans and brittle boys.

On the left side of a 4-3-3 formation, Wesley Sneijder struggled to get to grips with the game's pace, while Daley Blind was left looking like a three-legged piggy in the middle, allowing Arda Turan to muscle through for Turkey's second goal.

His cause wasn't helped by Cillessen allowing Turan's effort to slip through his body as if he was transparent, another example of a seasoned pro turning sour when dipped in orange.

Van Persie, Sneijder, Blind and Cillessen's wobbles magnify Holland's inconsistency, particularly as the new recruits are suffering from jelly legs.

Poor Stefan de Vrij, still only 22, endured one of those horrific nights so traumatising, he was hauled off at half-time to spare further anguish.

By then, the Dutch were two down and the damage irreparable.

Just a year older but equally culpable, Jeffrey Bruma disappeared when he lost Oguzhan Ozyakup for the opener and wasn't seen again.

Blind's emphasis on youth is admirable, but awkward. At left back, Jairo Riedewald is 18, making Gregory van der Wiel the only experienced defender on the other flank.


Unfortunately, the 26-year-old's attacking contributions were negligible, as he was constantly pulled back into line to deal with the mess made by others.

Holland's fragile rearguard has been an ongoing concern, but Blind's inability to address the matter will almost certainly cost his men Euro 2016 qualification and probably his job at the end of the season.

Only when Newcastle's Georginio Wijnaldum was introduced after the interval did Holland display any of the attacking impetus that defined their game in Brazil last year. But by then, it was too late.

Apart from the formation, the Dutch sides of Blind and van Gaal have nothing in common.

For all his bluster, van Gaal commanded his Dutch camp in Brazil. They believed in the man and the vision, willing to run through walls to make his master plan a reality.

Blind's zombies suggested they ran through walls in the dressing room, staggering onto the field without a clear focus, direction or objective.

Often sublime in Brazil, the Dutch are sleepwalking through what's left of Euro 2016 qualification.

It's hard to believe that the tentative, error-prone Daley was the same irrepressible scamp scurrying across Brazilian pitches to carry out his master's bidding.

But his old master has gone. So has Holland's self-belief.

Barring a miracle, they won't qualify now. And Euro 2016 will be a little off-colour without the Oranje.

New face 2015 Vanessa Ho

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