They were the shining stars of the Sparta Rotterdam academy, yet the explosive temperaments of Memphis Depay and Kevin Strootman left the coach charged with honing their youthful talents questioning whether the duo would ever fulfil their potential.
Richard Grootscholten was a pivotal figure in Sparta's youth-team setup during the period when two of the best young players Dutch football has produced in recent years were learning the game.
Grootscholten, who has worked alongside Manchester United...
The final week of UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying begins on Thursday, and 15 berths will be claimed by Oct. 13.
Though only five berths have been officially claimed (Austria, Czech Republic, England and Iceland, plus host France), most of the top teams have nearly sewn up their spots. That means the remaining drama lies largely in teams jockeying between second place (and an automatic berth) and third place (and a playoff), or among countries fighting simply to make the playoffs.
Remember that the top two teams in each of the nine groups qualify directly, along with the best of the nine third-place teams. The other eight third-place teams enter home-and-home playoffs for the final four places in France.
Here's how ESPN's Soccer Power Index forecasts the final games of group play, with odds for qualifying either directly or for the playoffs. All percentages are based on 10,000 SPI simulations. (For more information on SPI, see Nate Silver's explainers here, here and here.)
The nine groups are divided into three categories based on the remaining drama expected:
AMSTERDAM -- Netherlands' injury list has lengthened ahead of two crucial European Championship qualifiers with midfielder Davy Klaassen and winger Quincy Promes withdrawing from the squad.
Netherlands captain Arjen Robben, who has not recovered sufficiently from a groin injury, and defenders Ron Vlaar and Stefan de Vrij already had been ruled out of the squad that was gathering on Monday at a hotel on the North Sea coast to begin preparations for the final two matches of a disastrous qualifying...