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School of hard knocks

Who is the 17-year-old Dutch record breaker who cost Danny Blind his job?

It's fair to say one Ajax youngster's international debut didn't quite go to plan

As debuts go this makes Jonathan Woodgate’s look impressive.

While Dutch younger Matthijs de Ligt didn’t quite emulate the former Middlesbrough defender’s Real Madrid bow with an own goal and red card, his own debut wasn’t much better.

At just 17 and 226 days old de Ligt was thrown into the deep end by Holland head coach Danny Blind, becoming the youngest Dutch player ever to start a competitive fixture for his country.

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But the circumstances weren’t pretty – and the outcome was even worse.

Holland have suffered a desperate time of things of late, failing to qualify for Euro 2016 and changing managers four times in as many years.

Their World Cup qualifying campaign hadn’t started much better either, so a clash with Bulgaria on Saturday evening looked pivotal to their hopes of reaching the finals in Russia.

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But De Ligt’s dream debut quickly became a nightmare, making two fatal errors in the first 20 minutes before suffering the indignity of being substituted at half time to save further humiliation.

After five minutes, the Ajax centre-back horribly misjudged a long ball which allowed Bulgaria forward Spas Delev to give the hosts the lead.

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And just 15 minutes later De Ligt’s jitters returned, failing to clear properly before allowing Delev too much time to fire home his second.

Holland lost the game 2-0.

The gamble on De Ligt was meant to be a romantic and sentimental move by Blind, but it proved to be a car crash that ultimately cost him his job.

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It never seemed wise in the first place.

De Ligt is earmarked as the future of Dutch football and the perfect prototype in terms of ball-playing centre backs.

And you can see why after this tackle:

But he only made his professional debut last August and has played just 13 first-team games for Ajax, of which the majority have been in the Eredivisie.

Blind’s decision to partner De Ligt alongside Bruno Martins Indi, after injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Stefan de Vrij, has led to accusations of arrogance and favouritism towards Ajax players.

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In truth, the gamble backfired horribly and has left the Dutch staring down the barrel of a second successive major tournament absence.

The 2-0 defeat – their second in qualifying in just five games – saw them leapfrogged by their opponents and leaves them well adrift of Group A leaders France and Sweden.

Can De Ligt shake off this nasty setback to fulfil his potential or will this hamper his career before it’s even really got going?

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