AMSTERDAM: Next year's European Championship in France was enlarged from 16 teams to 24. There still wasn't a place for the dismal Dutch. 

The 1988 European champion and three-time World Cup finalist completed a catastrophic qualification series Tuesday with a humiliating 3-2 defeat in Amsterdam to the 10-man Czech Republic.

As if saving their worst for last, the Dutch went 2-0 down in 35 minutes, Robin van Persie scored an own goal and a late rally was not enough to secure a win that ultimately wouldn't have got Danny Blind's team to France anyway. Instead, Turkey beat Iceland 1-0 to secure direct qualification from Group A as the best third-place team.

"In the end, the disappointment is in the whole qualification campaign," coach Danny Blind said. "We have not been good enough."

It was a stunning admission in a nation where teenagers have emerged as future stars with every World Cup or European campaign since the 1970s — from Johan Cruyff to Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp and Van Persie. Look around and there are no worthy successors.

It made for a spectacular fall from grace for the Netherlands, which opened last year's World Cup in Brazil with a dazzling 5-1 defeat of reigning world and European champion Spain and went on to reach the semifinals, where Argentina needed a penalty shootout to prevail.

In Group A, the architects of Total Football failed totally. "It is a collective failure," midfielder Wesley Sneijder said.

It was the first time since the 2002 World Cup that the Netherlands had failed to qualify for a major tournament and the first European Championship since 1984 the Dutch have missed.