Ronald Koeman: 'It would be fantastic for a team like Northern Ireland to qualify'

Sun, Nov 17 2019

Ronald Koeman Credit: Clare McCahill (ETPhotos)

David Wilson reports from Windsor Park

Speaking after last night’s draw with Northern Ireland in Belfast, Dutch manager Ronald Koeman wished Michael O’Neill’s side well in their quest for qualification through the play-offs.

The draw meant that Northern Ireland’s already slim chances of qualifying automatically were dashed as they needed to beat both the Netherlands and Germany by an aggregate score of at least four goals.

Koeman praised Michael O’Neill’s side after two spiriting performances both in Rotterdam and Belfast.

When pressed about whether he would expect to see Northern Ireland join the Dutch at next summer’s finals, Koeman said: “For the tournament it would be fantastic for a team like Northern Ireland (to qualify) because we know in Holland they have great support and good behaviour in big tournaments, why not. Good luck to them.”

After overcoming Northern Ireland in the home game in Holland, Koeman spoke very negatively about Michael O’Neill’s side, calling them “outrageous” and “terrible to watch”.

Last night Koeman bore the brunt of some colourful chanting but was in good spirits after guiding his nation to their first major tournament since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Northern Ireland skipper Steven Davis missed a penalty just after the half hour mark and Koeman felt this was crucial.

“It was a great opportunity to score the goal from a penalty. They had so much spirit in the first half but you saw in the second half they had difficulty as they dropped deeper like they did in the second half in Rotterdam, but the difference was that we had overall more creativity to create chances to score goals,” said Koeman.

Holland dominated the ball throughout the game, something which Ditch head coach Koeman was happy with but was frustrated with his sides ability to break them down. The North put in a highly organised, defensively solid performance which Holland found difficult to penetrate.

Koeman said, “They (Northern Ireland) did it really well. They make it tough for us, they were unlucky to miss the penalty.

“Overall, we controlled the game, we had a lot of ball possession but of course we expected to create a little bit more than we did tonight but that was half down to the good organisation of the Northern Ireland team.”

The thought of Holland missing out on a major tournament would have been alien pre-2014, but now has become the norm missing out on both EURO 2016 in France and the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Koeman was naturally delighted to see his side wrap up qualification.

“Qualification means a lot because that was the goal that we talked about in the beginning when we started this qualification for EURO 2020. Everybody is really happy that Holland is back at that tournament.

“We always are criticising ourselves because we expected to (play) better, to create more which we didn’t do tonight. We know the team can play better, create more but overall its about qualification and we did a good job.”

The Dutch will play Belarus in their final match of qualifying, with all eyes firmly set on preparations for EURO 2020 in which they will play some games in Amsterdam.

Next for Northern Ireland is a daunting trip to Frankfurt to take on Germany, but they will be happy knowing that their play-off is guaranteed after Sweden’s defeat of Romania on Friday night.